Check out an article I wrote for the CBC about my Tree Swallow Nestbox Project and Radio Interview plus an interview on bird photography for the NY Times

I was honoured to be asked by CBC to write a "First Person" column about my Tree Swallow project that I started with the City of Richmond, BC. I discuss how climate change has impacted this project. You can read it in full HERE

I just checked the boxes yesterday and so far it has been a successful year. We even have a pair of Violet-green Swallows with 5 chicks using one of the nest boxes. We only have 2 Black-capped Chickadee pairs using the boxes this year but I view this also as beneficial since they are native cavity nesters.

This year Tree Swallows are using almost all the boxes in the 3 parks except for a few boxes that were damaged by a Northern Flicker or taken over by wasps. Most of the swallows have already fledged but many still have young inside of varying stages. One box had 7 young a new record for me! Some even still have 6 fresh eggs inside. Last year we had none with six eggs and less swallows using the boxes. 

I have found a few boxes with 1-2 dead young inside while the majority of others in the same box fledged successfully. I suspect starvation is affecting them. Many of the adults nested earlier than usual this year and most had six eggs so I think some couldn’t find enough food to give their young. This is also a problem also likely related to climate change and pesticide use. I just hope a heat wave doesn’t come again to harm or kill the remaining eggs/young. 

1 of the Tree Swallows I petitioned the City of Richmond to build boxes for taken at Garden City Lands - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Tree Swallow with 7 young (top) in Richmond - Photos: Melissa Hafting 

Violet-green Swallow nest at Garden City Lands - Photo: Melissa Hafting 

Violet-green Swallows now nesting at Garden City Lands - Photos: Sabine Decamp

Black-capped Chickadee best with young at Terra Nova in Richmond - Photo: Melissa Hafting  

I also will be doing a radio interview with CBC's Early Edition with Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio One about the Tree Swallow Nestbox Project which you can listen to HERE live at 6:40am on Monday June 27th. I’ll also add a link to the interview once they post it online.

Similar radio interviews on the topic will also be done Monday morning with the programs On the Island, Daybreak North, Daybreak South, and Daybreak Kamloops.

Also, I was asked to contribute to an article for the NY Times about ethical bird photography alongside photographer Melissa Groo. You can read it HERE 


  1. Hi Melissa, re your nest box heat trap article: I always either drill several holes in the sides of the birdhouses or leave the side pieces shorter to allow for ventilation..

    1. thanks I am not going to put in ventilation holes because of fear getting the young wet and hypothermic but i will be adding heat shields to the boxes thanks again

  2. Couldn't comment on CBC site so... About your tree swallow nest boxes. They seem based on bluebird boxes which are designed with gaps for air cooling. Can't tell if yours have these but you could drill holes.You might want to try painting the roofs white as this will slightly mitigate the heat absorbed.
    A chap built and mounted bluebird boxes in our local little park and the tree swallows have nested in one of them two years now. Very gratifying.

    1. Thanks so much Mark for your input. I consulted with an ornithologist here about adding ventilation holes to the boxes but he cautioned against it because of the heavy rain we get here. He explained how the birds can get rain scalding and get hyporthermia and die. I think the top of the boxes painted white is a good tip ! Glad bluebird boxes are being used successfully in your local park!

    2. Hadn't heard of rain scalding. I'll have to look that up.
      Note that the bluebird houses don't have holes in the roof for the rain to get in. The gaps are all under the roof... heat can still get out.
      In any event good work... and good luck! And thanks for telling your story. Inspiring.

    3. thanks hopefully the heat shields will work and thankfully this year temps have been mild and the swallows doing really well. some of the broods shave 7 young fledged!

  3. Regarding the swallow nesting boxes and birds dying of the heat. Perhaps some modifications would help like drilling a dozen 1/4" holes in the floors and near the roof to allow air to flow through the space. Also, painting them white would reflect the heat but may make the birds avoid them - I don't know. Probably worth a try!

    1. Thanks so much for your input. I consulted with an ornithologist here about adding ventilation holes to the boxes but he cautioned against it because of the heavy rain we get here. He explained how the birds can get rain scalding and get hyporthermia and die. I think the top of the boxes painted white is a good tip.

    2. I have purchased a second type of Nesting box from a builder in another city. We have been having Tree swallows come every year to our back yard. They live the new boxes. This year they definitely have nested and I have many other tree swallows come to visit the
      pair . My question is can I put another box up in the area or how far from the first one. We live in Kingsville Ontario very close to Lake Erie. So we back onto the Greenway which is the path of many birds. Love your post. Thank you

    3. hey that is great to hear you have swallows back again and they are nesting. you need to keep the boxes spaced at least 30 m apart. They won't nest if the boxes are any closer than that. I actually advise to make them even further than 30 m apart if possible. thanks again for reading and for your nice words!


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