What happens to birds nesting under bridge set for demolition?

Published: Jul. 5, 2019 at 2:42 PM EDT
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Work to replace the Champlain Bridge in Montreal is almost done. The new bridge is open and the old one is closed to cars and set to be demolished. But one major task remains: coaxing nearly 400 swallows to find a new home.

About 380 swallows have built their nests on the old Champlain Bridge.

After gathering mud and mixing it with their saliva, they build these nests. They mate, lay their eggs and feed their young away from predators but close enough to the water and the shore for the bugs.

So as the demolition of the bridge draws nearer, Pierre Molina has been preparing.

"What we expect that will happen is that when the old bridge is deconstructed, the swallows will try to find other spots and actually the Ice Bridge will be the perfect area," Molina said.

According to a recent study, the population of aerial insectivores like swallows has decreased by 59 percent since 1970, an astounding amount, biologists say.

But Molina says around the bridge they have been successful in increasing the population. He's been working with the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Corporation for six years to ensure the birds thrive.

"Federal bridges have added structures. We've worked with them to encourage the swallows to use. Those fake beams, fake structures are meant to attract the birds to glue their nests there," Molina explained.

The work has been so successful that others have taken notice.

"We've already had requests from other provinces, other contractors asking, how can we do the same work you do?" Molina said. "Honestly, once you know the basics and you know the ecology of the specific birds, it's a win-win situation for both."

A win-win situation that Molina hopes will help the swallow population grow.

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