Monday, May 3, 2010

In the backyard... Barn Swallow

Barn SwallowBarn Swallow, Malheur NWR, Harney Co., Oregon on 24 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


One swallow does not make a spring.
- Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.

A harbinger of spring, the Barn Swallow is a familiar backyard bird to most people throughout the world. It nests in North America, Europe, and Asia. It spends winter from southern Mexico south through South America, most of sub-Sahara Africa, and from India and SE Asia to northern Australia.

With its metallic blue coloration, long forked tail, and orange breast and belly (white in Europe and Asia), it is immediately recognized by all. It constantly calls as it dives and twists after flying insects, a pleasant twittering kvik-kvik or wit-wit.

The cup-shaped mud nest is placed on a rafter in barn, porch eaves, bridges, or other man-made structure. They lay 4-5 eggs. When the young fledge, the parents immediately begin to nest again. It is not unusual for these birds to raise 3 broods in a season.

Arriving in the Pacific Northwest about the first of April, Barn Swallows remain through the summer. In September they build into huge flocks as they migrate south, often roosting at night in corn fields, where up to one-half a million birds have been estimated such as near Dayton, Oregon. Flocks continue into the first week of October. Individual Barn Swallows have been detected occasionally in winter in recent years, west of the Cascades.