Mission Plays Mating Call to Woo Swallows

Cliff swallows have disappeared from San Juan Capistrano
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2012 2:21 PM CDT
Speakers hidden behind the statue call to swallows at the mission in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Thursday, April 26, 2012.   (Chris Carlson)
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(Newser) – Reminders of cliff swallows are everywhere on the grounds of the 236-year-old Mission San Juan Capistrano, where the birds have migrated each spring for centuries. Trouble is, the swallows themselves have gone missing in recent years. So the California mission is putting all its eggs in the basket of a simple love song, broadcasting the swallows' mating call from speakers that dot the grounds during mating season.

It's the latest in a series of efforts to get the birds to return, and so far it's no dice. Which leaves the mission's monthlong fiesta marking their return, as well as its Swallows Day Parade, somewhat empty. "They're ambassadors," says Capistrano's executive director. Nonetheless, the mission remains hopeful, and officials say they'll try again next year if the birds don't show this year. "It's very different here now ... it's sad," says one woman who visited often as a child. "What's Capistrano without the swallows?"

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