Friday, July 24, 2015

Barn Swallow

Proudly posing for pictures, the Barn Swallow is at home around people. The "Barn" in their name probably was given to them when they began nesting in barns. An estimated 98% of Barn Swallows now live in or around human habitation. Why they came to choose man-made structures over caves and cliffs to raise their young is not fully understood. Barns and building are relatively new to a bird that evolved well before modern structures.

This male Barn Swallow is on the Horicon Marsh Auto Trail near Waupun, Wisconsin. It's a driving tour of the north end of this 32,000 acre marsh. The trail provides close-up access to birds that would quickly fly away if they knew there was a human in each car.

Washed in rusty colors below and deep blues above, the Barn Swallow is common in North and South America in alternating seasons. Males and females look similar, although the male's colors stand out more.

He glides over the water, heading for his private patch of territory on the marsh's viewing platform.

Food is gathered on the wing. Skimming along the surface of the water she grabs insects that flutter in fear. Those insects account for nearly all of the Barn Swallow's dietary needs.

Barn Swallows won't visit your bird feeder, but they could be encouraged to nest nearby if you have a source of water for insects, mud for their nest, and a suitable structure to build upon. They build a mud nest which could look a bit untidy depending on location.

Raising  young is a demanding and
all-consuming task. As a member of a colony of birds protection of the young becomes a shared duty.

Many eyes watch for danger. Gulls, grackles and hawks prey on Barn Swallow young.
A coordinated response by the Barn Swallows often repel threats as they mob their attackers.

Additionally, non-breeding juveniles may help parents in rearing the young by providing food and protection for the next generation of hatchlings.

This communal approach to raising young insures a higher degree of success and undoubtedly contributed to the classification of the Barn Swallow being listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN*

(click any picture to enlarge)


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds and *IUCN-International Union for the Conservation of Nature