Bird Lady Blog

October 8, 2009

Swallows

Filed under: Munds Park Birding,Swallows — Munds Park Birding @ 4:21 am

Tree SwallowIf you look out your window today during late September or through October, you will see the Aspen leaves turning yellow and thinning and other trees tinged with orange and red.   You will certainly hear and see fewer ATVs.  All these signs mean the fall season is upon us, and many of you will be thinking about packing up and heading south.  And that’s exactly what our swallows are doing as well – beginning their fall migration.  We are fortunate to have several species of swallows in Munds Park, and in this article I will cover three of them.

 First let’s admit – swallows are hard to pin down and get a good look at.  They swirl around us in their constant quest for insects.  They are known to mate in the air.  They have very tiny feet and long wings.  They can make a mess of our patios and decks when they build their mud nests and set up house.  But they sure are pretty to watch, and we get a thrill when we can actually identify a species.

The most abundant swallow found in North America is the Barn Swallow, a spring, summer, and early fall resident of Munds Park.  In fact, this swallow species is found worldwide, including in Europe and Asia.  To see it in Munds Park, just stand around Lake Odell or on the golf course green #1, #10, or #17, and eventually one or two will whisk around you at about knee level.  The Barn Swallow is a beautiful bird, with a light orange breast, dark orange throat, and metallic blue back.  It has a distinctive deeply forked tail, which makes it one of the easiest swallows to identify, and it’s been clocked at flying 46 miles per hour.  By December of each year our Barn Swallows have passed through Central American and will be in South America.  By April they should be found again in Munds Park, but I don’t know exactly when for sure.  It would be nice to hear from any of you who are year-round residents when you notice the first Barn Swallow next spring.

The Violet-Green Swallow is another one of our birds that is only found in the Western U.S.  It migrates through Central American but not into South America.  It is white underneath and shiny green/bronze on the top.  And of course it is flying past you faster than a speeding bullet as you try to identify it.  This swallow often forages in flight higher than other swallows.  You should be able to spot the white sides on its rump during flight and a short tail (compared to the other swallows).  The nest of a Violet-Green Swallow is a cup of grass, twigs, roots, and straw and lined with feathers from other birds.  These swallows build their nests in rock or tree crevices, and they have been known to use nest boxes.

 A real nest box user, however, is the Tree Swallow.  Just ask Roy and Pat H. on Raintree.  For three years they had a Chickadee nest box in their front yard with no takers, but this year they were surprised with a nesting pair of Tree Swallows.  We sat on their deck, sipping our wine, or rum and coke, and eating crackers and cheese, and watched as the parents flew back and forth feeding the babies, their little heads popping out of the nest box hole each time mom or dad approached.  The Tree Swallow is shiny blue-green on top and white below.  It is the most likely Swallow to use a nest box if you are near water.   They favor Bluebird boxes, which have an entry hole that is one-and-a-half inches in diameter, but the Roy/Pat pair decided the Chickadee nest box, with an entry hole of only one-and-one-eighth inches in diameter, was suitable enough.  Nest boxes are a good solution for declining Tree Swallow habitat as a result of cutting down of old trees and draining of swamps. 

When you are sitting on your deck at sunset and your guests from the East and Midwest marvel that they are not being harassed by mosquitoes and other insets, you can give partial credit to the Munds Park swallows.  They scoop up insects with their wide mouths, often catching several at a time.  One swallow can eat over 1,000 mosquitoes or other insects a day.  I hope they get the “no-see-ums” as well.

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4 Comments »

  1. Violet Green Swallows have made a nest in one of my birdhouses in my front yard. I live on Zia Pl in Munds Park. They are very hard to photograph. There seems to be four birds taking care of the nest. Today they seemed to be arguring in mid air. I have peeked in the box through a small sliding door on the back. I did see one chick but not sure how many are in there.

    Comment by Diane Deam — July 7, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

    • Diane: Thank you for sharing the info on the Violet Green Swallows! What size hole in the nest box – the size for a bluebird or a chickadee? Can I mention your nesting green swallows in my next article and your street name? I will not put in your name.

      Comment by Munds Park Birding — July 7, 2012 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

      • The hole on the box is 1 1/2 inches and is a little over 7 inches from the bottom of the box. The floor of the box is 3×5. The swallows are violet greens. There is white above and around the eyes. I live at the end of the cul-de-sac on Zia Pl. You can see them flying around the street all day long. The box is on a pine tree in my front yard. I have a bluebird box on the other side of my driveway that they did not use. The box is one from Bailey’s Blue Bird Trail in San Bernardino CA. Bailey was my great grand newphew who died very very young. His grandmother started Baileys Bluebird Trail in his memory. You can probably find the story by a google of Baileys Bluebird Trail. I was hoping to attract bluebirds but I guess I am too far from the golf course. My sister in Carnation WA has one of Bailey’s boxes and black capped chickadees have just been found nesting in it. I might have to move the box to the golf course area. I do not care if you mention my name. I send photos to the paper frequently and also to AZfamily.com. I do have a few photos of the violet green but they are not that clear.

        Comment by Diane Deam — July 8, 2012 @ 7:48 am

  2. You have the first report I’ve heard of nesting Violet Green Swallows in Munds Park. Thanks for sharing, and I’m sure you have much enjoyment from watching them. I will mention in my next article.

    Comment by Munds Park Birding — July 8, 2012 @ 11:28 am | Reply


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