March 17, 2015


Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano will unveil its plans for Phase II in the historic landmark's quest to bring back the cliff swallows on St. Joseph's Day, Thursday, March 19.

Cliff swallows expert Dr. Charles Brown, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Tulsa, implemented Phase I -- the Vocalization Project -- in 2012, in which recorded courtship calls were played through a speaker on the mission grounds to lure the cliff swallows that were flying overhead.

Phase II, which involves using a mobile nest wall, gets underway beginning on Feb. 1, 2016. According to Dr. Brown, anecdotal evidence suggests the vocalization playbacks at least occasionally bring in passing cliff swallows that fly over the site but do not stay to nest. The next step is to increase the stimulus being presented to these passing birds by creating the mobile nest wall. Research has shown that cliff swallows prefer to re-use existing nests where possible, as this saves time and energy in building a nest from scratch.

Once the birds notice the plaster nests and begin using them, spillover or additional settling birds likely will lead to them to building nests on the walls of the Ruins of the Great Stone Church. And once nests are built, the artificial arch would no longer be needed.

In recognizing the national goals for the proper care and treatment of the historic landmark, Mission San Juan Capistrano will ensure that this temporary experiment recommended by Dr. Brown will be mobile, and not attach to any historic buildings, obstruct sensitive views or impact the historic grounds in any way.

The arch will be made of a wood frame and adobe and/or plaster. The actual nests will be made from molds and dental plaster, each nest weighing between one and two pounds.

It will be about 15 feet at its highest height of the arch and about 15 feet wide, allowing for approximately 40 nests, about 16 centimeters in diameter, stacked along the top of the perch. Attached is a sketch of the proposed arch. Dr. Brown will be available for interviews at the mission on St. Joseph's Day.









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