Baby swallows found dead |

Baby swallows found dead

An investigator from the Fish and Wildlife Service will investigate the deaths of fledgling cliff swallows at Union Hill School, a federal official confirmed Monday.

Swallows fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and state and federal regulations protect them, according information on the Web site of the University of California, Davis, Agriculture and Natural Resources Department (

A mother of three Union Hill students called the Wildlife Rehab and Release hotline on Friday to report birds were stuck and hanging from nets at the school, said Sharon Cuva, a volunteer animal rescue worker with the group.

Earlier this month, the woman’s children had observed a janitor at the school removing cliff swallow nests with a pressurized water hose, Cuva said.

Cuva is one of two volunteers caring for baby birds rescued at the school over the weekend, she said.

But those reports are inaccurate, said Tom Butcher, maintenance supervisor for the Union Hill School District. The school follows a hands-off approach for managing the birds and leaves fledglings alone until they vacate their nests in August, Butcher said.

“We don’t disturb the birds, period,” Butcher said. The school maintenance team has never sought professional advice on how to manage the birds and always does any necessary work itself, Butcher said.

After the fledglings leave the nests, the school routinely hoses down the nests to discourage the birds from returning the next year, Butcher said.

Baby birds have been known to die when they fly from the nests prematurely and then fall onto the hot asphalt below, Butcher said.

So far, no one from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has contacted the school, Butcher said.

A special agent from Fish and Wildlife is expected to visit the county on Wednesday as part of the investigation, said Jayne Powers, president of Wildlife Rehab and Release.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife is investigating,” a Fish and Wildlife employee said ” but gave neither her name nor more details.

Volunteers from Rehab and Release found 20 to 30 dead birds at the school over the weekend, Cuva said. She stored several of the dead birds found at the school in her freezer so they can be tested for poisoning later, she said.

“We collected a basket of birds,” Cuva said. Two of the four surviving birds she rescued have since died.

Netting common

People tending public and private buildings commonly install netting to deter the birds from building their mud nests under the eaves.

But in the case at Union Hill, “It looked as though the nets had been applied too late,” said Walt Carnahan of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society.

Several nests with baby birds are trapped behind the netting, which appears to have been put into place after the nests were built, Carnahan said.

Using plastic attached to the eaves so bird nests won’t stick to the building would be a better method of prevention, Carnahan said.

“It’s a problem that can be solved. It requires careful management,” Carnahan said.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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