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Surprise culprit alters Monroe County construction schedule

These days, birds of a feather are slowing down a bit of work in Monroe County.

Construction of a roundabout project there has slowed because of the presence of barn swallows, state Department of Transportation officials said. The birds and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

The birds were found nesting in culverts near the project site, located near Rum Creek at the intersection of Ga. highways 18 and 87.

Typically, precautions are taken to keep that from happening, but they weren’t in this case, said Kimberly Larson, a DOT spokeswoman. The birds have slowed down the culvert portion of the project, but overall progress on the $3.2-million initiative project is not behind, she said, since work on other parts continues.

“The birds are actually nesting in a culvert, and we have to put some spillway drainage on top of that, so construction has moved to other locations,” Larson said.

DOT contractors are required to put netting around construction areas during migration season to prevent birds from nesting, Larson said. That’s usually April to August.

Allen Mason, general manager of Georgia Asphalt, the construction company handling the site, said the DOT informed the company that construction could resume at the spot in August, when the nesting period ends.

The roundabout is scheduled for completion in June 2017.

Biologists in the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources division said it is not uncommon for barn swallows, known for their long, forked tail and curved, pointed wings, to breed and nest in such enclosures.

Biologist Todd Schneider said structures such as culverts make good substitutes for barn swallows’ natural homes.

“A lot of times things like culverts are basically like a surrogate habitat that they would use naturally,” Schneider said. “You get them in concrete culverts and occasionally in metal culverts that might have a bent lip that they can put their nests on.”

Schneider said the bird is common in Monroe County and tends to nest near sources of water and grassy areas where they can feed on flying insects.

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