Every year a pair of Lesser-striped Swallows return to build their mud nest under the eaves of our house. They build their nest in exactly the same place, although the direction of the tunnel opening may change slightly with every construction. This summer there had been enough rain for them to start their nest soon after their arrival.

The pair of swallows perch on the telephone cable, resting between their labour of collecting balls of mud, cleaning their beaks, or possibly discussing their building plans.

The nest gradually takes shape. The different colour of the mud reveals the variety of sources these birds use for their building material.

Both birds bring mud in their beaks. Here they are shaping the bowl of the nest together.

They appear to masticate the mud in their beaks before adding the ball to the row.

The gap finally nears closure.

After this has been achieved, a tunnel opening is formed to complete the outer structure of the nest. Then follows the process of lining it with soft materials before the eggs can be laid.

You would think that their summer labour is over and that these birds can now settle down to breeding and raising their family. They are fortunate some years and I hoped this would be one of them. I watched nest lining being brought in … not many days later the entire nest crashed to the ground! For days the birds either perched on the telephone cable or on the bathroom window. Finally, they decided to move to plan B – as they occasionally do – and painstakingly built a new nest around the shady side of our house.

This one remained intact for them to raise at least one chick … then it too dashed to the ground.



  1. We are fortunate to have five families nesting around our house, under awnings and on the stoep. I love their sweet chirps when I wake up and their chatter on the stoep. They have become accustomed to our presence and go about their routine undisturbed. Feels like part of the household. Our one family had to rebuild twice too. Little superheroes.

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  2. Beautiful. And heartbreaking. I love our swallows too, Anne. Barn swallows in our case, who return each year to build or repair their nest. One year the nest was flooded and all 3 babies drowned. So sad. Since then we have helped them a little by adapting around their chosen site when they have left us for the winter to offer more protection from the rain. They have successfully raised one and occasionally two broods each summer since then.


  3. Reminds me of starlings that we once had trouble with. They actually figured out how to remove the soffit vents and enter the house that way every year until we replaced the vents with screws. Very messy birds. Seemed to relieve themselves all down the wall every time they arrived “home.”


    • Starlings are another matter! We closed off the eaves under our roof because the Speckled Pigeons moved in en masse and both the ensuing noise and mess became unbearable.


  4. Beautiful birds, and how painstakingly they build their nests. It must be so difficult to see those nests crash and not be able to help.


  5. Such a pretty swallow! It is a pity that their nests have trouble sticking to the wall. I wonder if a platform would help, or if they’d even use it? The mysteries of bird parenting!


    • We have thought of this many times. Interestingly, most of the mud sticks to the wall and the bowl and tunnel falls down. This has led me to wonder about the expansion and contraction qualities of the different sources of mud they use.


  6. What a wonderful opportunity to watch the nest building in live action, Anne. It’s wonderful to see how each ball “brick” was set into place. That construction must be quite heavy and without any support holding it in place it’s astonishing that at least some nests stay up long enough for the nesting cycle to be completed!


  7. Nature is so cruel. Evidence that we live in a fallen world. We also have a swallow’s nest in the Peafowl house. Two in fact. Both fell to the ground this year.


  8. Thank goodness the first nest collapsed before the eggs were laid and the second nest after the chick was raised. I had to laugh at your statement of the laborious task of building the nest: “possibly discussing their building plans” – your swallows are different than our barn swallows who are “on the move” and I’ve tried to get shots of them and it is rare they alight so I don’t know where they gather their mud for nests – they barely stop a few seconds. A few years ago I was at Heritage Park and saw a nest in the covered bridge with the chicks looking out at me (with that disgruntled look they have with their errant feathers and over-sized beaks).


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