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Hoping for the Return of the Swallows

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: The annual celebration of the return of the cliff swallow honors the famous bird while encouraging it back to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

For decades, the city of San Juan Capistrano has taken part in a yearly three-month-long tradition of celebrating the return of the famous cliff swallows. Though the number of birds that settle at the Great Stone Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano has diminished over the past years, events still remain in order to remember the swallow’s legendary connection to the Mission.

As part of the celebration, the Mission will host its annual St. Joseph’s Day and the Return of the Swallows Celebration on March 19. The event will be filled with several activities and lectures, including a special vocalization experiment with a goal of bringing the swallows back to the Mission.

Those looking to learn about the birds, their social behaviors and how they choose where to nest will have the unique opportunity to attend a guest lecture by Dr. Charles R. Brown, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Tulsa, who has been studying the cliff swallow for 30 years.
“Swallows do a lot of the same things we do, living in big groups," says Brown. "But I hope people also come away with appreciation for the diversity of behavior that some animals exhibit.”

Attendees will also be able to experience the vocalization experiment created by Brown. The goal of the experiment is to draw attention to the church as a suitable nesting area. Brown hopes that the recordings of cliff swallows will capture the attention of the birds and encourage them to settle at the Mission.

Brown says that though there is not much that people themselves can do to bring the cliff swallows back, they can make sure to protect the birds and their nests if they ever settle in a residential area. Doing this could help create a larger population, which, in turn, will make the birds more likely to use the Mission.

The event will not only be an educational one, but also a spirited celebration that will include the ringing of the historic bells, mariachi music, flamenco dance performances, and much more.  

“The idea of homecoming is always something to be celebrated and we open the doors to everyone, all people of goodwill are welcome,” says Mechelle Lawrence Adams, the Mission’s executive director.

The St. Joseph’s Day and the Return
of the Swallows Celebration will take
place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the
Mission San Juan Capistrano, located
at 26801 Ortega Hwy., San Juan
Capistrano. Tickets are $10 for adults,
$9 for seniors (60+) and $6 for
children (ages 4-11).

The festivities will continue on Saturday,
March 22 during the 56th annual
Swallows Day Parade, starting at
11 a.m., which will be themed
"New Trails West."

missionsjc.com :: swallowsparade.com

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