Bird Lovers, City at Odds Over Barn Swallows in Richfield
In Richfield, a battle is brewing over barn swallows.
Some residents say the city broke the law by destroying active nests with eggs inside, violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
However, city officials maintain that they followed the rules and did not disturb any nests which had eggs or chicks inside them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says an investigation is ongoing.
City officials admit that they have removed the swallow nests. City Manager Steve Devich explains that the birds are a public health concern saying, "It's the bird droppings which can contain salmonella; the nests can contain parasites. And those things can drop down on picnic tables where food is being served."
But Devich insists that city workers check for eggs first saying, "We've had our city staff looking in nests before they're destroyed."
Richfield resident and bird watcher Scott Meyer says the city did in fact break the law.
"I had looked into a nest they left after they ripped down other ones and saw eggs," he said. "And later that day, they ripped that one down too."
Meyer also describes finding broken swallow egg shells on the ground.
The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects more than 1,000 birds, making it illegal to move their active nests with eggs or chicks inside. The penalty for disturbing nests, eggs and chicks can include fins up to $500 or up to six months in prison, depending on the severity of the circumstances.
The City of Richfield has since requested and received a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing it an exemption to the law for public health concerns. The permit was granted in early June, but the City has removed swallow nests since spring.
The investigation continues into whether those nests had eggs or chicks inside.