Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Winged Flight

Swallows and swifts are two birds that enjoy most of their lives on the wing.  Meaning that their capacities for flight are impeccable.  Some of these birds can only eat on the wing and some can even sleep on the wing (so the rumor goes...).  These birds are simply put awesome visitors to our environments.  I've been lucky enough to be a Tree Swallow Nest Monitor for a local Park Group and Audubon Connecticut IBA.  Being a Nest Monitor means that you get a real close up view of a birds nest.  It also means that you get buzzed a lot by Tree Swallows.  I am hoping that consistently doing this over the next few weeks will mean that the tree swallows will eventually recognize me and will buzz me less.

Some fun Facts about Swallows:

For many years, people and ornithologists believed that swallows would borrow into river banks to hibernate.  Today, we have tracked their migrations as far as south America.  Some appear to have flown through the day and night!  Do these birds possess the capability to sleep in flight?  or can they, like dolphins, shut off part of their brain?

The vast Majority of Purple Martins live in Human made habitats.  Why you ask?  Supposedly Native Americans discovered the fact that Purple Martins like to nest in dying Gourds.  At the same time, they discovered that the Purple Martins ate a lot of the insects that would otherwise threaten the crops.  They also also protected the crops and fields from Crows.  So Wins all around for the Martins and the Native Americans.

These birds are also among the hardest to photograph.  I was going to include a picture of Chimney Swifts, but they all come out blurry or too tiny to really appreciate the bird.  Chimney Swifts are also a struggling species due to habitat loss and the growing unpopularity of Chimneys (no joke).  Many people are opting to cap their Chimneys and this has resulted in a massive decrease in where Chimney Swifts can nest and their successful broods.

Bank Swallows nest along side the Banks of rivers, not in commercial Banks :) Couldn't resist.  

Here's a tip when it comes to IDing Swallows.  Learn how to do it without your bins.  Take time to appreciate their colors and shape with your naked eye before you start chasing them around with your bins on.  Enjoy their acrobatic antics and make observations and use your bins to verify details and colors.  Until the next time, get out side and go birding!

What do you think about our winged friends who soar instead of dart?

Tree Swallow sitting on a Nest Box

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow flying over water

Purple Martins in and out of Gourds

Bank Swallow over a River

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link Here


  1. HI I was very interested to read your post today and I do hope the Swallows get used to you being around them. They are very difficult to photograph in flight due to their speed.

  2. Neat post! I learned some things! Dad always had Martin poles and I remember being fascinated with them nesting in the gourds he hung, and later he made houses. Their swooping and darting was so balletic.

    I went to the Connecticut Audubon center once and spent a couple of hours walking the trails, not seeing a single bird! :-) I heard a few. It was mid-day. But, hey, even one bird would have been nice. :-) I guess I just got the bad roll of the dice that day.