110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Tree swallows eat insects, berries and seeds
By Lynn Bowen
posted Mar 9, 2014 - 6:24:05pm
Tree swallows are energetic, small, stocky songbirds that breed in North America in open areas like coastal beaches, salt marshes, dry and wet prairies, and agricultural environments. These highly social birds usually fly in large flocks of hundreds or even thousands, so I was amazed when I saw just one resting at Denman Wildlife Area in White City, Ore., where I was hiking last summer.
The hardy male tree swallows have deep blue-green iridescent backs and heads and white fronts, slightly forked tails, and broad-based triangular wings. The females have brown, drab plumage for camouflage, as is the case with many birds.
Tree swallows are 5.75 inches long, have a 14.5-inch wingspan, and weigh only .7 of an ounce. These excellent fliers are little acrobats in the air, who catch their prey in flight with their small bills. They nab beetles, horseflies, moths, grasshoppers, dragonflies and any other insects that suit them! They differ from other swallows since they include berries and seeds in their diet.
At breeding time, the males arrive a week before the females. When the gals arrive, they find a mate, build a cup-shaped nest of grass and pine needles, and line it with feathers in tree cavities, birdhouses or cliff crevices near the water. Females usually do most of the nest-building, but sometimes males take part in this activity.
For a reason known only to the birds, tree swallows especially like to line their nests with white feathers, and will actually have battles with other birds to own those feathers! Frequently, however, feathers of various colors just have to do!
The female lays four to six eggs, one a day, and then she alone incubates them for two weeks, while her guy is the sole guard. In just two weeks, the chicks hatch.
Tree swallows migrate in the winter to the southern U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Locally, they come to Florida in August and leave in May.
These are beautiful, interesting birds indeed!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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