Hello Stalkers! This is the thirtieth edition of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. Can you believe it? We only have twenty-two more weeks left of this year! We still haven’t made our goal of 300 likes on our Facebook Page; we could use your help! Share it with your friends, invite them to the world of Mike Blair Outdoors!
You’ve probably seen these birds at one point in your life or another. After all, these birds are the most abundant and widely distributed swallow in the world. The Barn Swallow is easy to distinguish because of it’s long, deep forked tail. This distinctive tail sets it apart from all other North American swallows. Between this and their affinity for man-made structures, they are pretty common birds.
Barn Swallows can appear almost cone shaped when perched. They have slightly flattened heads, no visible neck and broad shoulders that taper to long, pointed wings. They are a steely blue on their back, wings and tail. Their underparts are a tawny color. The males will appear more colored than females.
The Barn Swallow breeds throughout the Northern Hemisphere and winters in the Southern Hemisphere. They can bound in a variety of habitats. Their feeding grounds range from fields, parks and roadway edges to marshes, meadows, ponds and coastal waters. Breeding habitats must include open areas for foraging, a source of mud for building the nest and a structure for the nest. Nests are usually easy to spot under eaves, inside sheds, barns, bridges and other structures. In fact, these cup-shaped mud nests appear almost exclusively on human-made structures, hence their name.
Both the male and female work to build the nest cup. They collect mud in their bills and mix it with grass stems to make pellets. After making a small shelf to sit on, they build up the nest’s sides. The nest will either appear as a complete cup sitting on top of a horizontal surface or a semicircular half-cup built against a vertical surface. After the cup is complete, they line the inside with grass and feathers, often stealing nesting-lining materials from neighboring nests.
The female Barn Swallow will lay a clutch with three to seven eggs and will only have one to two broods per season. The eggs will incubate twelve to seventeen days. After hatching the nestling period is fifteen to twenty-seven days. An odd and somewhat sad fact about barn swallows from allaboutbirds.org – “An unmated male Barn Swallow may kill the nestlings of a nesting pair. His actions often succeed in breaking up the pair and afford him the opportunity to mate with the female.”
Barn Swallows are amazingly agile flyers. They most often cruise low, just a few inches above the ground and water. They rarely glide and can execute quick tight turns and dives. This agile flying ability lets feed while on wing, snatching insects as they fly. Flies off all types are the majority of the Barn Swallow’s diet. They will also catch and eat beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and other flying insects. They prefer large, single insects instead of feeding on swarms of smaller prey.
Have you seen these birds swooping and diving around? Maybe you’ve spied a ‘hidden’ nest under the eave of your garage. You can also view Blair’s short video of these birds around a water hole: Swallows Drinking. Enjoy the show and enjoy their presence because your insect population will drop with these birds around. Enjoy what remains of your summer!
Be sure to check out the Barn Swallow Photo Gallery!