Swallow Hard and Build It

Apparently, either you love them or you hate them
– the swallows that nest at Gavilan Community College’s Gilroy
campus, that is.
Apparently, either you love them or you hate them – the swallows that nest at Gavilan Community College’s Gilroy campus, that is.

The birds build their mud nests in the eaves of the Gilroy facility and leave their droppings all over the campus. Those droppings not only mark the side walks and buildings, but also the college’s students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“I bring an umbrella – I’m not exaggerating – when I come to work. I’ve been pooped on several times,” Community Television director Suzanne St. John-Crane told reporter Heather Bremner.

Facilities workers spend a lot of time cleaning bird nests and droppings from the campus.

It’s not just an issue of maintenance and aesthetics. For people with compromised immune systems, the swallows present real health risks.

But other folks defend the swallows – instructor James Frazier even composed a poem celebrating the birds.

We propose a solution that should please everyone. Gavilan College officials should team with experts on swallows – we believe UC Davis has some – who could help them build a habitat – swallows housing, if you like – on a site far away from human-used facilities. It would need to be near a source of mud, insects and shade. And it would be a perfect class project.

In the meantime, the college should remove nests from its buildings and install some preventative structure or netting to prevent future swallows invasions.

Done right, this could be an opportunity for college students to learn about swallows and for the college to build goodwill and partnerships with other universities while protecting the health of its community and the integrity and aesthetics of its facilities.

In fact, in the spirit of the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, Gavilan might ponder changing its mascot from the ram to the swallow. Not only would it be a way to embrace an critter that’s embraced the campus, but it would remove the gender-bending moniker “Lady Rams” from Gavilan’s women’s teams.

Gavilan College might not have student housing, but it ought to build swallow housing as a way to both embrace and evict the birds.

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