Tree Swallow

(Tachycineta bicolr)



Tree Swallows are terrific birds. Not only do they entertain us with their aerial talents, but they feed on copious amount of insects.

Who wouldn't welcome these energetic avian wonders to their yards and gardens?

The Swallow leaves its wintering grounds along the seacoast from the Carolinas to California to begin its season of mating and nesting habits.

Description:

The Tree Swallow is 5 to 6 inches long.

The Male has iridescent blue upperparts and bright white underparts. In fall, the upperparts may appear greenish. The female has duller, brownish upperparts and grayish underparts.

The female has an immature plumage in the 1st year (sometimes 2Nd year). This allows her to approach breeding adult birds and their nest without being chased from the pairs nesting site.

If anything happens to the breeding female and she dies, the younger female bird can replace her.

This helps ensure a successful breeding season.

Tree Swallow

Mating:

Soon after arriving on their breeding grounds in mid March to mid April courtship begins. The swallows perch near their nest holes or on top of nesting boxes.

Flutter-flight and bowing displays from the male are done in front of the females.

Occasionally one may see these birds billing. This is the practise of a mating pair touching bills with one another.

Actual mating occurs about a week before egg-laying begins.

Nesting:

Tree Swallows prefer open areas near water or in dead trees at the waters edge for nesting.

This bird is a cavity nester and is an ideal candidate for man-made bird houses.

Competition from House Wrens and House Sparrows makes it even more important to place and monitor bird houses for these graceful fliers.

Feel free to place bluebird house near each other, Bluebirds will take one bird house and the swallow will gladly take the other bird house.

These birds defend only the nest itself. If predators or human visitors approach the nest while the birds are around the birds may swoop down toward the intruder, turning at the last minute narrowly missing the intruder.

The nest is built primarily by the female, although the male does some gathering of materials. Cup shaped and made of grasses for a foundation and lined with feathers.

The nest building process can take as long as a month but generally completed in 2 to 3 weeks

The female lays 4 to 7 white eggs which are incubated for 13 to 16 days. Sometimes, during egg laying and even incubation time, the nest may be abandoned for a few days.

During this time you'll see no activity around the nesting site. Within 3 - 4 days the birds return.

This leave-of-absence apparently has no effect on the success of the young birds hatching, only delaying the event.

The female swallow performs the job of incubation and both parents feed the young. The young birds will leave the nest in 16 - 24 days after hatching.

1 - 2 broods each season.

Diet:

The diet of the these birds consist mainly of insects caught on the wing. In winter bayberries are a favorite food. By late July or early August the Swallows leave their breeding grounds and form flocks around marshy areas where there are plenty of flying insects.

Migration:

In early fall the Tree Swallows will begin migrating southward. In winter they feed in large flocks until early spring migrating back in much smaller flocks.

Tree Swallows migrate south the least of all of our swallows.

They winter from southern California, South Carolina, Florida, and the Gulf Coast southward to Panama.

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