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Published August 14 2011

Swift: Barn swallow infestation an owly problem

Maybe it was the fact my mother let me stay up and watch “The Birds” when I was 5. Or it could have been our farm’s overly confident barn swallows, who used to dive-bomb us kids and snatch the hair off our heads.

Whatever the case, I have always had a slight fear of birds.

Naturally, I have been less than enthused about the barn swallows who have taken up residence at our house.

Irwin lectures me that swallows are “good” birds, who consume mosquitoes like Beijing consumes electricity.

Mr. Sciency-Pants insists that they only swoop at me to instinctively protect their nests, which they’ve thoughtfully built over my dining room window. And they can’t help it if they build on houses; our human structures just lend themselves naturally to their types of bird-condo.

Granted, the first year the birds did this, I was enchanted. I reveled in their industry as they built a neat, little, half-moon pocket out of mud and straw.

When their chicks hatched, we took photos of their fat little faces gazing out of the nest. Who needed a nature channel when life was unfolding on our very own front steps?

But then they started to eat more. And digest more. And before long, it looked like the window of our house had been caught in a paintball fight.

I patiently waited for them to leave the nest, then knocked it down and scrubbed the siding.

But they were the most tenacious, little critters I’ve ever seen, with a work ethic that makes an ant look like an overweight basset hound.

The nest returned. I knocked it down again. They shifted it to over our door, where they could drop mud and bird waste on our guests. I knocked it down. It was like fighting the bird equivalent to “Rudy.”

I turned to my good friend, Google, for advice. Someone in a chat room suggested smearing a cayenne pepper-paste above the door. Apparently, our winged friends were of Cajun, rather than Scandinavian, descent. Our swallows were willing to swallow anything as long as they could still build their nests.

My friend suggested hanging aluminum foil over the door. This actually worked. The only problem is that, well, I had aluminum foil over my door. Besides, the swallows started building right where the tin foil ended. Unless we wanted to wrap our home in foil like a 1,500-square-foot turkey, we had to try something else.

My brother-in-law suggested a plastic owl. I found a scary one, complete with staring amber eyes and a bobbly head that turned completely around, a la Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

This thing was so freaky that it scared the dogs. Jake refused to go out the front door, and Kita spent a great deal of time sniffing its plastic rear.

And it actually seemed to work. The swallows were blissfully absent for several days. Then, one morning, we awoke to find them swooping across our front lawn and even running into windows.

I looked outside. Apparently, the owl had not been engineered for a summertime Fargo storm. He had fallen off the step, tipped over and literally lost his head. His noggin – complete with hypnotic stare – was found a few feet away.

So now the swallows were celebrating. Ding, dong, the wicked owl is dead.

How does that nursery rhyme go?

“It’s windy, it’s pouring,

The old owl’s not soaring,

He lost his head,

And then his cred,

And couldn’t scare birds in the morning.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

or tswift@forumcomm.com