Dead swallow babies

I have had swallows nesting in a stable block for many years, always very productive. This year I have 3 separate nests in 3 separate stables. One nest had 3 young and the others had 2 in each. All was going well and they appeared almost ready to fledge. However, I arrived at the stables yesterday morning and every single baby was dead on the floor under each of the nests. There was no sign of any marking on them and I use no pesticides etc...It hasn't been that warm, indeed other years have been far hotter and this hasn't happened before. The adults would seem to be ok. I was obviously very upset. Any ideas at all why this has happened? Anything like this happened elsewhere?

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Hi Johanna, and welcome to the RSPB Forum.  Enjoy your stay with us.

    I have to say that I have not heard of all chicks dying together in one nest.  So sad to hear of stories like your one.  You have a personal relationship with the birds and got to know them over the years so that adds to the sadness you must be feeling at the moment

    First thing I could think what may have happened is that the parent birds may have fed something that was poisonous to the chicks. So they perished

    Maybe an insect/food that was picked up to feed the chicks was contaminated in some way.

    Second  thought may be a Great Spotted Woodpecker has got into the nest and killed the chicks.  Are the correct number of chicks still there - any missing at all.  Is the nest damaged at all?

    Third thought is that maybe one of the parent birds has been accidentally killed, and the remaining parent has not managed to feed the chicks so they have starved to death.

    Others will have more suggestions.

    Regards

    Kathy and Dave

  • Hi Johanna

    This is shocking and I can't imagine what could have happened to affect 3 separate nests. If they don't look at all damaged, then as blackbird suggests poisoning might seem the most likely answer. It's improbable that each nest could have lost a parent and all the chicks died at the same time.

    It sounds like a mystery to me, and it seems like such a waste.

    Best wishes Chris

    Best wishes Chris

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  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Thanks for your reply. No, nests aren't damaged and all the chicks accounted for. Such a mystery that this should happen to 3 separate nests - 7 chicks (all almost ready to fledge) at exactly the same time.

    Best wishes

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Swallow:

    hi Johanna

    As the nests are not damaged and the effect on all the nests means that it must be something in foodstuff that the chicks have eaten.  Maybe it is that the parent birds have stronger immune systems with certain foodstuff, and the chicks have suffered instead.

    I would rule bird food stuffs out as Swallows are not bird table visitors

    Can I ask if there is anything lying about your property that may have caused this accident.  Anything that is exposed that should not be?  Just a thought.

    Barns are great places for storage and everything but the kitchen sink ends up in there - been there before, and there was an old sink in one barn we had as part of our rental.

    Hope this has resolved your mystery.

    Regards

    Kathy and Dave

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Hi, and welcome to the forum,

    What an awful and sad thing to happen. I guess you will never really know what happened. It seems so strange that every single chick from 3 nests died at the same time. Just dreadful, and such a waste. I'm so sorry.

    Cheers, Linda.

    See my photos on Flickr

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Thank you all for your help. The dead swallows have now been collected for analysis by a local RSPB rep, so if there is any news forthcoming I shall let you know. The stables are 3 miles from my home on an organic farm (which has won many awards), no poisons or anything untoward that can be seen. The adults remain flying in and out of the stables (they must be feeling so devastated!) Meanwhile, in my own barn, 3 miles away, I have one active swallow nest, can't see how many chicks are in there but they make quite a noise so a few I hope. I'm keeping fingers crossed that all continues to go well for them.

     

    Best wishes, Jo

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Swallow:

    Yes, please let us know the outcome of the analysis. I hope it will give us important information to prevent this happening again if it is a man- made tragedy!

    Thanks

    Pipit

  • john r said:

    I have had swallows nesting in a stable block for many years, always very productive. This year I have 3 separate nests in 3 separate stables. One nest had 3 young and the others had 2 in each. All was going well and they appeared almost ready to fledge. However, I arrived at the stables yesterday morning and every single baby was dead on the floor under each of the nests. There was no sign of any marking on them and I use no pesticides etc...It hasn't been that warm, indeed other years have been far hotter and this hasn't happened before. The adults would seem to be ok. I was obviously very upset. Any ideas at all why this has happened? Anything like this happened elsewhere?

    Hi, I could have written this myself.  We too have 4 nests in 4 stables, every year the swallows come and raise 2 sets of babies, but for some reason at the beginning of June the first set of chicks all died and were chucked from the nest - but over two days.  The second set are all well, and zapping overhead.  This is too much of a co-incidence and was very upsetting.

    I too have no idea why this would have happened

     

  • In reply to Daz:

    Hi Daz,

    How awful that this has happened to you too. Mine also had a second brood which fledged successfully and are now trying for a third.

    The tests came back that the young didn't have much food in their bellys' and possibly starved, which seemed very odd that they should all go at the same time and had been able to get to the stage of being almost ready to fledge. It was said that the parents were having to feed the 'wrong type of insect' as the ones they prefer to feed are scarce this year, at least during the early part of summer anyway.

    I don't know, it all seems a mystery, especially now hearing yours have suffered too. At least there has been a happy outcome for the later broods.

    Best wishes, Jo.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Swallow:

    Hi Swallow

    Both situations are very sad from Daz and yourself.  Do you stay at the same neck of the woods - by chance?

    So it was a food related things.  Wonder why there was an insect shortage for the chicks?

    The only thing you can hope that the same thing does not happen next year.

    The last winter was harsh, longer than usual, and very cold

    The recent weahter ever so dry and hot so I wonder if that led to the Swallows downfall.

    Just part of mother Nature once more {sad}

    Regards

    Kathy and Dave