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Barn Swallows Constructing Their Nest
Photograph - Untouched
This piece has been featured in the FAA Group, "Amateur Photographers".
This Barn Swallow couple are building a nest together. Both adults would come in from across the field with a collection of mud in their beaks or a piece of straw or both. Sometimes they would take a break with mud and/or straw in beak either on the eaves above the nest or on the tower bracket beside the nest - either together or singly as the other added to the nest. Or a single bird would fly directly into the nest with its building materials upon its return from the field. They would take turns in the nest disposing of the mud and patting it down with their beaks. The straw was placed strategically amongst the mud patties. It took a few days to construct their new home.
The Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. It is a distinctive passerine bird with blue upperparts, a long, deeply forked tail and curved, pointed wings. It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In Anglophone Europe it is just called the Swallow; in Northern Europe it is the only common species called a "swallow" rather than a "martin". The Barn Swallow is a bird of open country which normally uses man-made structures to breed and consequently has spread with human expansion. It builds a cup nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight. This species lives in close association with humans, and its insect-eating habits mean that it is tolerated by man; this acceptance was reinforced in the past by superstitions regarding the bird and its nest. There are frequent cultural references to the Barn Swallow in literary and religious works due to both its living in close proximity to humans and its annual migration. The Barn Swallow is the national bird of Austria and Estonia.
The adult male Barn Swallow of the nominate subspecies H. r. rustica is 1719 cm (6.77.5 in) long including 27 cm (0.792.8 in) of elongated outer tail feathers. It has a wingspan of 3234.5 cm (1313.6 in) and weighs 1622 g (0.560.78 oz). It has steel blue upperparts and a rufous forehead, chin and throat, which are separated from the off-white underparts by a broad dark blue breast band. The outer tail feathers are elongated, giving the distinctive deeply forked "swallow tail." There is a line of white spots across the outer end of the upper tail. The female is similar in appearance to the male, but the tail streamers are shorter, the blue of the upperparts and breast band is less glossy, and the underparts paler. The juvenile is browner and has a paler rufous face and whiter underparts. It also lacks the long tail streamers of the adult.
The preferred habitat of the Barn Swallow is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, preferably with nearby water. This swallow avoids heavily wooded or precipitous areas and densely built-up locations. The presence of accessible open structures such as barns, stables, or culverts to provide nesting sites, and exposed locations such as wires, roof ridges or bare branches for perching, are also important in the bird's selection of its breeding range. You can find the adaptable Barn Swallow feeding in open habitats from fields, parks, and roadway edges to marshes, meadows, ponds, and coastal waters.
The Barn Swallow is similar in its habits to other aerial insectivores, including other swallow species and the unrelated swifts. It is not a particularly fast flier, with a speed estimated at about 11 m/s, up to 20 m/s and a wing beat rate of approximately 5, up to 79 times each second, but it has the manoeuvrability necessary to feed on flying insects while airborne. It is often seen flying relatively low in open or semi-open areas. The Barn Swallow typically feeds 78 m (2326 ft) above shallow water or the ground, often following animals, humans or farm machinery to catch disturbed insects, but it will occasionally pick prey items from the water surface, walls and plants. In the breeding areas, large flies make up around 70% of the diet, with aphids also a significant component. However, in Europe, the Barn Swallow consumes fewer aphids than the House or Sand Martins. On the wintering grounds, Hymenoptera, especially flying ants, are important food items. When egg-laying, Barn Swallows hunt in pairs, but will form often large flocks otherwise.
Barn Swallows feed on the wing, snagging insects from just above the ground or water to heights of 100 feet or more. They fly with fluid wingbeats in bursts of straight flight, rarely gliding, and can execute quick, tight turns and dives. When aquatic insects hatch, Barn Swallows may join other swallow species in mixed foraging flocks.
June 18th, 2014
Viewed 5 Times - Last Visitor from Beverly Hills, CA on 11/23/2014 at 2:35 AM
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