Three pairs of house martins nest on the facade of the Swiss embassy. They can breed there in peace, the embassy staff leave them alone and expressly accept them.
This is not normal, swallow nests are often removed by homeowners because the birds leave behind dirt and droppings and damage facades.
The Berlin branch of the Nature Conservation Union (Nabu) has therefore awarded the Swiss Embassy the “Swallow-Friendly House” plaque.
However, there is a fundamental problem behind the action. Many bird nests, not just those of swallows, are destroyed through negligence or willful misconduct. In order to protect them, the state of Berlin has been funding a program since 2019, in which Nabu is also involved.
At Nabu, Nina Dommaschke is one of the people responsible for “species protection on the building”. The Nabu organizes a wide-ranging information series. Homeowners, housing associations and construction companies are informed about the legal situation of nature conservation.
“Many do not know that nests, eggs and birds are protected and that the destruction of nests or eggs or the expulsion of birds is prohibited,” says Dommaschke. “Especially due to the increasing energetic renovation of buildings, there is a risk that nests will be destroyed. For example, house sparrows nest in the roof area.”
In addition, Nabu members inform homeowners themselves about bird nests on their respective facades.
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The Swiss embassy, says Dommaschke, is even considering creating a clay spot near the nests. Clay is important for swallows to build their nests on. “The fact that swallows are nesting on a representative embassy building is a great signal and shows that species protection and sophisticated architecture are by no means mutually exclusive,” says Dommaschke. Dropping boards under the nests or cardboard laid out on balconies, for example, provided effective protection against dirt.
While house martins nest on the outside of buildings, such as under roof overhangs or on balconies, and also feel at home in inner-city areas, barn swallows build their nests indoors, such as in stables or sheds, but also under footbridges. Both species are in decline. In Berlin there are currently about 4,000 pairs of house martins and 800 pairs of barn swallows. One of the main reasons for their decline is insect mortality. It robs the bird’s food base.