The Swallow gets is name from catching the insects they eat in mid flight. Its feet are designed for perching instead of walking and its front toes are joined at the base. Both the adult female and male swallow are similar in color. They have metallic royal blue upperparts and breast, cream to buff colored under parts, reddish brown forehead, chin and throat. They also have white markings on the inside of their tails. Their bill and legs are black. The female swallows tail streamers are shorter than the male. The juvenile is a duller color that the adults and lack the color in its forehead, chin and throat and its tail is much shorter.
Swallows build mud nests close to overhead shelter in areas protected by the weather and predators. Cave and cliff species nest in large colonies. Swallow eggs are smooth, glossy and white with reddish speckles. The female incubates the eggs and when hatched the young are fed by both parents. The swallow will fly through the air and collect insects in the back of its throat and bring it back to the nest. Adult swallows will keep the same mate for life.
Different Species of Swallows
There are several species of swallow found in the North America:
The Barn Swallow is distinguished from other American swallows by its deeply forked tail and rust colored under parts. This six inch long bird is found in Alaska east to Newfoundland, Canada and south to California and east to North Florida in farmlands, suburbs, marshes and lakeshores. They eat grasshoppers, beetles, moths and other flying insects in mid air. They can make sharp turns at high speeds in order to catch insects in great numbers.
The barn swallow nests in colonies and hunt together.
If the nest is approached by a predator or human, the entire colony will mob the intruder using aerial acrobatics.
They hunt near the ground over open fields and near water. The favorite site to nest is of course in a barn, hence its
name "Barn Swallow." They also nest in other out buildings.
During mating season, the male attracts the female by spreading his wings and singing and they often mate in the air. The
Barn Swallow is the most widespread of all swallows.
The Violet-Green Swallow is found in North America from Alaska to Mexico. They are identified by their velvet green feathers and white chest and forked tail. They also have white patches on the side of its rump. This small bird is very similar to the tree sparrow. They nest in tree cavities and rock crevices and migrate during the winter to Central or South America.
The Northern Rough-Winged Swallow is identified by it brown top feathers, light under parts and forked tail. They have a dusky throat and breast. They are closely related to the southern rough winged swallow found in South America. The northern rough winged swallow breeds near streams, lakes and riverbanks in North America and nest in cavities near water. They burrow in the dirt for food and donít form colonies. The female lays four to eight eggs in her nest. During the winter, they migrate to the gulf coast and to South and Central America.
Swallows as Beneficial Birds
Swallows are most often a welcome site to farmers,
gardeners and the general public. This bird might be small but it often
gathers in large numbers; couple this with their voracious appetite for flying
insects and you have quite a pest control friend. It is only when the
location of their nests that can sometimes make them a pest to public buildings
and homes. As shown in Pest Swallows, their nesting
materials, feces and their association with parasites (which often invade
buildings inhabited by humans) that can make this insect feeding bird a pest
bird that might need controlling.
The best control products for unwanted birds, which will not harm the birds, are bird spikes and professional grade ultrasonic devices. The Ultrason X will make birds feel unwanted in targeted areas. When possible, use Bird Spikes to stop birds from nesting or resting on ledges. In severe cases, both electronic devices and spikes are used in combination to deter swallows from areas where they have become a pest or hindrance.
Credits: Thanks to Lani Powell for providing information on Swallows!