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Artificial nesting boxes for sand martins

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  • Project initiator: Montreal Port Administration
  • Partners: Government of Quebec; Comité ZIP Jacques Cartier
  • Duration of project: one year
  • Cost of project: CA$200,000. The government of Quebec contributed CA$30,000 through the Saint-Laurent Action Fund for the project in Montreal.

Context of how the project emerged:

The populations of six species of swallow in Quebec have been subject to significant reductions since 1970, reaching as much as 90%. The sand martin, a migrating swallow, is one of these species.

Most swallow species have not been accorded any protective status, and depend on voluntary initiatives to help them to conserve their populations in environments propitious for nesting. The different factors that affect the levels of bird colonies are changes in insect feeding areas, the use of chemical products such as pesticides, and climate change.

To preserve this endangered species, the Port Authority of Montreal has developed a simple initiative to create artificial nesting boxes.



Strategy and objectives

In the greater Montreal region, the sand martin seeks sandy cliffs and sandpits along the Saint Lawrence river. Sand martins generally dig their burrows in almost vertical slopes (of at least 70 degrees) at a height of more than 2 m.

Thus, in 2019, the Montreal Port Authority decided to create habitats to provide favorable conditions for colonies of sand martins to nest in artificial structures less vulnerable to erosion and climate change.

The action focused on 2 sites:

  • At Contrecoeur, a site where the Port of Montreal plans to build a container terminal;
  • At Montreal, in the framework of the Fonds d’action Saint-Laurent, an initiave aimed at protecting the ecosystems of the Saint Lawrence River and its Gulf,  funded by the government of Quebec. The works to create two artificial habitats were carried out by the Comité ZIP Jacques-Cartier, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, rehabilitate and enhance the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.


The project’s innovative characteristics


The developments are a hybrid model that use sand banks, concrete walls and walls made of perforated wood, which provide secure and good quality habitats for reproduction.

In addition to the design of these habitats, monitoring is planned for the Montreal site to observe migration and the nesting period of the sand martin by the Comité ZIP Jacques-Cartier.


Results and outlook


The use of nesting boxes and the presence of chicks augur well for the reproduction of this species and the growth of its population in Quebec.

In the framework of the project there are also plans to select more efficient structures to install additional similar nesting boxes on the islands under the management of the Montreal Port Administration. The Montreal Port Administration is currently working to convert these islands into national wildlife reserves.

How can this project be duplicated on other rivers?


Simply by developing similar structures on sites where the bird passes.

#Biodiversity #Migratorybird #Nestingbox #Quebec

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Photo credit: Bank Swallow and Nests / APM

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