Tree Swallow Chick 13 Days Old photo by Larry Jordan
I had an incredible day on the bluebird trail the other day. Three pairs of nesting Tree Swallows and more Western Bluebirds on the way! This little guy was hanging out at the entrance hole waiting for mom and dad to bring lunch. In a few days he will be out there in the real world looking for insects to eat. And someday he will look something like this handsome fellow.
Tree Swallow Male photo by Steve Berliner
Steve has some incredible bird and wildlife photos here: Steve’s Photo Gallery . The Tree Swallow is a cavity nesting bird that will nest in natural or man-made cavities. They will compete with Bluebirds for nesting cavities anywhere their habitats overlap. Tree Swallows build a nest of mostly grasses with many feathers from other species. See the following photos.
Tree Swallow Chicks 3 Days Old photo by Larry Jordan
You can see these little ones are starting to get some color. They are no longer naked but their eyes are still closed.
Tree Swallow Chicks 1 Week Old photo by Larry Jordan
These week old chicks will be opening their eyes soon and in another week will look like the chick in the first photo above.
You may have noticed the bright yellow mouths of all of the cavity nesting birds I have posted here on the blog. It has long been thought that this was to make it easier for the parent birds to find the chicks in a dark environment such as a tree cavity. A few years back, a group of scientists from the UK did a study and found that it’s not likely that the color of the “gape”, or open mouth, visible to you and I makes a big difference.
You see, birds are much more sensitive to the ultraviolet (UV) light spectrum that we mere humans can’t see. They discovered that the gape and surrounding flanges of the chick’s mouth was considerably brighter in the UV spectrum in cavity nesting birds than birds that nested in areas with more light (Royal Society study). The important thing for us nest monitors is that we have an easy way the count the chicks in the nest by looking for the brightly colored mouths!
Male Tree Swallow Atop His Birdhouse photo by Larry Jordan
You will often find the Tree Swallowadults sitting on top of their nestboxes. They will fiercely defend their homes, often dive bombing intruders to drive them away. When not guarding their nestboxes, these incredible acrobats gracefully show off their skills, catching insects in mid air. They are a pleasure to watch.
Tree Swallows are migratory. They breed in North America and winter in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. They will congregate in huge flocks when not breeding and swarm to a roost site. Watch this video of a cloud of Tree Swallows.
Here is the other typical Tree Swallow pose. The inquisitive parent, sticking their head out of the nestbox.
If you have the opportunity to watch some of these beautiful birds in your area, make sure you take advantage of it. You will fall in love with the Tree Swallow.