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Barn swallows come to Lodi, nest at Staples

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2001 10:00 pm

Shoppers entering Staples are being greeted by a swarm of barn swallows that have appropriated part of the store's roof area as their nesting ground.

Swallows, housed in nests made of mud and straw under the eaves and overhangs of the office supply store, glare defiantly down at passersby from their nests, and some leave the nests to fly in warning circles when people walk too near.

"They are very protective of their nests," said Jennifer Jacobs, administrative director of the California Audubon Society in Sacramento.

Barn swallows have shown up at the Staples store on West Kettleman Lane near Lower Sacramento Road in late April each year since 1998, said Carol Gibson, a business services specialist at Staples.

There are about 150 nests, a majority of which are on the west side of the store. The remainder are nestled against eaves and the overhang on each side of the store's entrance. A few other nests are on the Safeway building to the west.

A sign posted in the window of the Staples office supply store asks patrons not to disturb the swallows that have built nests along the front of the store. (Jerry R. Tyson/News-Sentinel)

The incubation period is 13 to 17 days, Jacobs said, and the young swallows stay in their nest for 18 to 23 days once they hatch.

Although the nesting period is a seasonal one - from late April until June or early July - barn swallows don't migrate to San Juan Capistrano. They remain in the Lodi area all year.

"They're around," Jacobs said. "They don't need the nests (at other times of the year)."

Gibson said she sees the barn swallows fly to the Staples building each year from the farms west of Lower Sacramento Road, where they seem to collect their mud to create their nests.

"I know it's wet when they put it there," Gibson said.

Swallows tend to build their nests at the same location each year once they find a building to their liking, Jacobs said.

In Lodi, Staples seems to be the place.

Barn swallows, which can be found all over the world, tend to nest within 20 miles of their birthplace, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

They are glossy blue on the upper part of their bodies. The rest of their wings and tail are black with blue or a blue-green gloss, according to Cornell Laboratory.

On two signs near the store entrance, Staples asks customers not to disturb the birds because they are a protected species.

"I've seen people throwing things at the nests," Gibson said. "It is against the law."

The California Department of Fish and Game allows people to hose down the mud nests while they are being created, Jacobs said.

"We don't encourage that by any means," Gibson said.

However, once the nests are in place, Fish and Game will not allow them to be disturbed, Jacobs said.

Comments about this story? Send mail to the News-Sentinel newsroom.



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