Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia): in sandpits and quarries

Image of a Bank Swallow and nest of the side of a cliff
Bank Swallow and nests

Protected species

The Bank Swallow is a migratory bird species at risk that has lost 98% of its Canadian population over the last 40 years.

This insectivorous bird is particularly drawn to sand and gravel pits, stockpiles of sand and soil, and sandy banks along water bodies and roads. Bank Swallows generally dig their burrows in near-vertical banks (slopes of at least 70 degrees) that are more than 2 m high. Bank swallows typically use their nesting sites from mid-April to late August. This is the sensitive period during which the risk of harming the birds is especially high. The absence of the birds in August is a good indicator that the breeding season is over.

Illustration of nest, read long description
Figure 1. Suitability of slopes for nesting
Long description

The digrams above shows that the Bank Swallow requires a bank with a slope of more than 70 degrees is suitable, less than 70 degress is unsuitable for nesting.

The best way to minimize the possibility of contravening the Species At Risk Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and their regulations is to fully understand the impact that your activities could have on migratory birds and their nests and eggs and to take reasonable precautions and appropriate avoidance measures. In fact, under the acts and associated regulations, it is an offence for anyone to kill, hunt, capture, injure or harass a migratory bird or to damage, destroy, remove or disturb its nest, eggs or residence (burrow) without a permit. The sand and gravel industry can play a major role in the conservation of Bank Swallows by adopting operating practices that do not harm the species.

For more information, visit the Species at Risk Registry or the Avoiding harm to migratory birds web page on the Government of Canada website

What you can do

Before the Swallows arrive and begin nesting (generally before mid-April)

During the breeding season (generally from mid-April to late August)

After the Swallows leave at the end of the breeding season (generally after late August)

Notify your employees of the prohibitions that apply to the Bank Swallow and the techniques that can be implemented to avoid harming the species

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