The legendary swallows are said to return to San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, but these day's it's the tourists who return to the city's mission by the thousands, not the birds.
Biologists are trying to lure back the swallows that made Mission San Juan Capistrano famous by returning to the Orange County building on schedule each year for centuries. They're heading to stage two of a long-term plan to end the mission's bird-less streak.
Having already mimicked bird calls to attract swallows, biologists are creating a 15-foot-tall, moveable arch with artificial nests built in in hopes of reminding them it's a good place to settle.
"If an old nest can survive since last year, then that's a pretty good indication that that's a good place to live," biologist Charles Brown said.
An old, stone mission is the best location for a cliff-dwelling bird, with nothing to block their view or flight path, biologists say. The goal is to create a home away from the swallows' Argentine home to convince the birds to once again make Capistrano their summer residence.