Sunday, January 2, 2011

Waiting for Breakfast

"Waiting for Breakfast"
Barn Swallow - Adams County, Colorado

Barn swallows, known for their acrobatic flight displays, are found virtually worldwide.

North American populations winter from Panama and Puerto Rico all the way to the southern tip of South America.

The barn swallow, dressed in its dazzling, iridescent blue cape and cinnamon vest is the only swallow on the continent to sport a deeply forked tail.

Barn swallows have become closely related to humans, all but abandoning their natural nesting locations in favor or barns, culverts, and bridge structures - even the front porches of suburban homes.

The swallow’s cup-shaped nest is assembled from mud pellets, scooped up by both male and female, mixed with various plant fragments. It is usually found stuck against a vertical wall or ledge.

Construction time for a new is one to two weeks. However, old nests are often refurbished. A nest may be solitary or build among other nests to form a colony.

Four or five white eggs, marked with reddish-brown splotches, are laid around the middle of May.

Nesting usually continues through mid-July, and appears to be somewhat uniform throughout the Rockies. Both male and female share in the incubation duties, as well a tending the young.

Incubation takes anywhere fro 13 to 17 days.

Food primarily consists of insects, with an occasional berry thrown in for desert.

During the first day or two after the young swallows hatch, the parents eat the fecal sac of their young. Then, for a while, the parents carry the sacs off. After about the twelfth day, the young swallows become "house broken;" they back up to the edge of their nest, and...just be careful of where you walk!

The young swallows will take to the air when they’re 18 to 23 days old.

During nest-building, it’s entertaining to watch swallows dive to the edge of a lake or stream and scoop up a mouthful of mud. Swallows constantly going back-and-forth to the same location is a major clue that a nest is under construction.

The next time you locate a nest of this avian acrobat filled to capacity with young swallows, spend an hour or so watching the parents as they circle about, catching insects on the wing for their offspring.

You’ll be glad you did.

This image is available as a signed, limited edition photograph by special order. Go to my website, Wildlife Photography by Weldon Lee, for details on pricing and framing options.

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