This gallery contains 7 photos. The Tree Swallows may have been the darlings of spring, but the Barn Swallows steal the show in summer. Three life stages were being enacted within 30 feet of each other on a very sunny and breezy July 3. This outbuilding made for a convenient nursery for at least five very young and hungry babies (the fifth is hidden; as with human children, getting all the heads to pop up at the same time is a challenging endeavour).
Wedged: a quintet of Barn Swallow nestlings, perhaps no more than a couple of weeks old.
Barn Swallows are DIY specialists; they build their cup-shaped nests from scratch by taking a mouthful of mud from a nearby source and mixing grass in it (they may also reuse old nests). Other (bigger) bird feathers are used to line the nest. This is a new nest for the year (built atop a hanging birdhouse), and a fairly deep one at that–almost like the parents knew that there were going to be quite a few wriggling bodies in it!
The clicking of my shutter makes four of five fuzzy heads pop up. Is that Mom with food?
A Barn Swallow mother brings back lunch (in the form of what looks like a tule bluet damselfly) for her family of five. She’s fast, stuffing her catch in the mouths of her growing brood in just a few seconds. In this photo–taken in burst mode–she stopped long enough for me to recognize not just her prey, but notice some of the identification marks on her legband as well (which shows that she was banded in Canada). The young silently beg her with their open mouths (the yellow in their mouths stimulates her to feed them).
I hadn’t seen chicks of any bird species in a nest before. As young as they are, these precocious youngsters know to poop over the edge of the nest — not in it! (unlike Tree Swallow nestlings, who do-do in the nestbox, and for which mommy and daddy must act as diaper removal service). Barn Swallow parents (or their helpers–who may be older siblings/fledgings) bring back food for the babies — usually flies or damselflies, which they quickly put in one open mouth (no sharesies) before flying off for more insects.
Fledged: two juvenile Barn Swallows wait for lunch.
Juvenile Barn Swallow on the left looks a bit constipated. The one on the right looks amused.
Fledglings may no longer be wedged in a small nest, and they obviously have their feathers now (if not quite the glossy iridescent blue and buffy/orange plumage of their parents), but these ones still don’t know how to catch meals for themselves. The adults still have to do this for them, and then they have to teach these skills to the young before all fly back to their Central/South American haunts for the winter. Juveniles also have shorter tails, and their bill colours are still predominantly yellow.
A Barn Swallow decides to park itself on a nearby branch.
Like their Tree Swallow cousins, Barn Swallows can also be intensely curious about us.
On more than one occasion have these beautiful little iridescent flyers felt the need to pop over and check out the photographer. 🙂 Barn Swallows are the most cosmopolitan of all swallow species, with a multi-continental range that spans the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa.