There are lots of legends about the swallows, and even a song. In fact, I doubt anyone can think of San Juan Capistrano without thinking of these little birds. No one really knows why the swallows return every year precisely on the 19th of March (St. Joseph’s Day), but whatever the reason, the town sees to it they are received with a proper fiesta every year.
During the summer, they build their nests of sticks and mud under the eaves of the crumbling adobe mission. They raise their babies, and then, precisely on October 23, the feast day of the Mission’s namesake, St. John of Capistrano, they circle the mission in farewell, then, head back to South America.
Why do they come to the mission every year? Perhaps they like the cool eaves and the crumbling adobe. Or, perhaps, as one legend has it, Fra Serra, the Franciscan founder of the mission, invited them.