SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Mission Gets Nests to Lure Swallows


The first of 500 replica swallows’ nests were installed Monday at Mission San Juan Capistrano as part of an effort to lure the winged visitors back in larger numbers.

Nine clay nests, made by an artist from Norco, were put under an eve on the south wing of the mission, then painted with a coat of fresh mud.

The nests, along with thousands of insects released weekly on mission grounds and an ample supply of mud, are designed to draw the birds that have been opting in recent years for friendlier venues, such as freeway bridges and a Mission Viejo shopping mall.


The 218-year-old mission will celebrate the annual return of the fabled swallows on Sunday. About 10,000 people are expected to show up for the event, which has taken on greater significance this year because of the mission’s hopes to win back more of the birds.

Both local and national bird experts have been consulted, said Gerald Miller, the mission’s administrator.

“I think we’ll have plenty of swallows,” Miller said.

Hundreds of the birds’ nests were destroyed in the last six years by state-mandated work to make the mission earthquake safe.

Lyrae Perry, the artist tapped to craft the replica nests, smiled as workers put up the first batch attached to a piece of wood that was screwed into one of the mission’s old walls. Each nest takes from four to six hours to make, Perry said.

“I think they’ll be pretty happy homes for the swallows,” Perry said.

Miller said the nests cost $17 each. On Friday, a national cable television program called “Have a Heart” is scheduled to broadcast live from the mission and seek donations for the project, Miller said.

By summer, all 500 nests should be up, Miller added.

“It’s something the birds can use and will help in a direct manner,” Perry said.