Happy Canada Day from the newest feathered generation!
Barn Swallows nest in the potting sheds where I work and this week the young ones began leaving the nest. As you can see, they are at a size now where with four or five to a nest they’re overflowing their little home.
These four fluffy little masked bandits ventured from their nest yesterday. First, one particularly intrepid individual flew over to the next crossbar on the ceiling, sat there for a while looking around, occasionally visited by a parent, then returned to the nest. Later in the morning, all four of them fluttered over to one of the pipes and perched there for a time before somehow all squeezing back into the nest.
Their nests are built of mud and lined with fine grass and feathers. It is particularly distracting in the spring watching them collect big chicken feathers. One might fly in with a feather, but drop it before it reaches the nest, and another swallow will fly through and catch it. Other dropped feathers reach the floor, swirling around in the breeze, and I love watching the swallows hop around on the ground after them with their tiny little feet.
The Barn Swallow has the widest distribution and is the most abundant swallow in the world, and its breeding range in Canada extends from coast to coast. I love having them around, whipping in and out through the door and perching above our heads, their busy chatterings filling the shed. It gets to be quite raucous when they all get going, and then suddenly they all stop at once… it goes quiet for a brief second, and then away they go again.
“One hardly knows what quality to admire most in . . . the Barn Swallow. All the dear associations of life at the old farm come thronging up at sight of him. You think of him somehow as part of the sacred past; yet here he is today as young and as fresh as ever, bubbling over with springtime laughter.”
William L. Dawson, The Birds of California (1923)
“No bird in North America is better known or more truly the friend and companion of man than the swift and graceful Barn Swallow. It nests within his buildings, and with a flight that seems the very ‘poetry of motion’ it follows the cattle afield, or swoops about the house dog as he rushes through the tall grass, and gathers up the flying insects disturbed by his clumsy progress.”
E.H. Forbush, A Natural History of American Birds of Eastern and Central North America (1939)