How and Why To Attract Swallows, Swifts and Martins in Your Garden



swifts and martins are all great birds for the organic gardener to have around. These migratory birds all swoop in during the summer months and eat insects, meaning that they are fantastic for controlling the numbers of insect pests you have to contend with in your organic food garden. These graceful creatures are also attractive neighbours and can be pleasant to watch in a wildlife friendly garden.

House martin

You may already be attracting a range of birds to your garden with feeders, planting and a place to bathe, but these birds have different requirements to many that we find in our gardens and so it is necessary to spend some thought and effort to make sure that those requirements are met. There are many different types of swallow, swift and martin, though the ones you are most likely to see in gardens are the barn swallow, the house martin and the swift.

swallows in a nest

Swallows begin to arrive from March and will stay until around October. They love to nest in sheds, garages, barns or other outbuildings and their knobbly, mud-cup nests are also found under the eaves of houses or porches. To allow them access to an existing nest site, make a small hole that is a minimum of 5cm high and 20cm wide near the eaves of your garage, barn or shed, or leave a window or door open. You can direct the swallows to preferred nest sites inside a building by creating barriers and providing perfect ledges for their purpose. Artificial nests may also prove useful in encouraging the use of a particular location.

House martin chicks

If you do not have an outbuilding, but do have swallows in your area, then you may be able to encourage them to nest on provided platforms or nesting boxes attached under the eaves of your home or new ledges created high up in a porch. Swallows, however, are more likely to nest in wide-open and spacious areas in more rural locations and so in towns you may have more luck attracting house martins.

House martins are insect eaters like swallows and are, like swallows found during the warmer months, though they are far rarer in north-west Scotland. They are found around human habitation and so it is often possible for gardeners in somewhat more populace areas to encourage them. To breed successfully they


will need suitable nest sites, building materials and insects to eat. Artificial nests may encourage house martins to build their own under the eaves of your home or an outbuilding. Providing a muddy pool or puddle where they can collect building materials can be helpful, especially when the spring is a dry one.

Swifts are found in the summer, most numerously in the south and east and rarely seen in the far north west. Nest boxes can be fitted into the eaves of new structures or attached to the wall under your eaves (only on buildings of more than one storey) – if you are lucky swifts will nest there and you will have plenty of these amazing birds wheeling about and keeping the insect population at bay.