SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. — Reminders of the legend of the swallows are everywhere at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano: Tiny swallow silhouettes are etched into paving tiles, replicas of their distinctive mud nests hang from buildings and the gift shop overflows with swallow items. What's missing are the swallows themselves.
The graceful birds once swarmed to the 236-year-old mission each spring, flying from Argentina to nest in the stone of the mission's earthquake-damaged church. In recent years, however, the swallows have all but vanished.
Now, decades after their annual ritual was immortalized in a chart-topping romantic ballad, the mission is attempting to lure the swallows with hidden speakers playing cliff swallow courtship calls for up to six hours a day during mating season.
The experiment has so far been unsuccessful.
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