Checking cliff swallow nests high on a barn

With summer finally here, the rising temperatures will soon have an effect not only on the hard working field technicians, but possibly swallow chicks as well.

Along with helping with Tara’s project, I (Donavon) will also be conducting my own study as part of my honours project. My research will look at the relationship between nest temperature and chick survival in cliff swallows.

In the Maritimes, cliff swallows have shifted from nesting on cliff faces to human infrastructure, like barn eaves. These new nesting locations may act as an ecological trap by providing ideal locations for nest building, but ultimately result in unfavourable conditions for raising young, such as increased nest temperature. This may be stressful for the young, increasing chick mortality and resulting in population declines.

Placing an iButton into a cliff swallow nest but not having quite enough hands to do so easily

Over the course of the summer I will be placing temperature recording devices, known as iButtons, into the nests of the cliff swallows to record the temperature every hour. Once the chicks have left the nest the iButtons will be removed and their data uploaded onto a computer for analysis.

My results may find that higher nest temperature results in lower chick survival meaning that barn eaves are an ecological trap. Alternatively, our results may show that higher nest temperatures allow parents to incubate less and spend more time foraging allowing them to feed chicks more, resulting in higher chick survival.

I hope that these results  will provide more information on the declining cliff swallow population and ultimately aid in its recovery.  Stay tuned!