Mornin folks, here’s another bird for you! D’you know it’s name?
Clothes and shape
Last week’s Chirpy Challenge was one ‘sky dancer’, the swift – and here’s another beautifully aerodynamic bird 🙂
Notice the red above and below its bill. This bird has deep blue on its wings and a very long forked tail.
Challenge – can you draw it?
Find out what it is on the RSPB bird identifier under ‘S’: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z
This is a swallow 🙂
Time for a Tale – this is called Thumbelina and the Swallow, adapted from the Hans Anderson story:
Flight and behaviour
These birds arrive in April. They have flown from Africa to nest here, and then, in September they’ll travel all the way back south.
The male (Mr) and the female (Mrs) look the same.
When you see these birds fly, you may notice their long forked tail and white tummy. Swallows feed on winged insects.
See the video below:
There are other birds that you might mistake for a swallow – the swift, the house martin and the sand martin.
All these birds catch insects in flight but swallows can also dive low, sweeping very close to the ground, eating as they go. Can you see the swallow doing this in the video below?
Sand and house martins will also fly low, but just over water.
You can tell what the weather will do by watching where swallows fly. If it’s going to be wet, they’ll not fly high but skim close to the ground for insects.
Swallows are communal birds. When the young have fledged, you will often see a bunch of them on a wire together.
Swallows have an excited burbling chatter, both in flight and when perched. In the video below, can you hear the swallows? Most of them are inside the building (a car wash) yattering away about their nest sites 🙂
Swallows make nests out of dried grass and mud. When they are building their nests, you might be lucky to see them land by a muddy puddle to collect what they need for building.
They like nesting in buildings with an open door or window. Usually they’ll build on the top of a pillar or a wooden beam.
I was fortunate to be able to hold a swallow 🙂 This bird and its fledglings were nesting in a barn. We caught them and put a tiny metal ring around their leg, which has a number on it.
This is only done by trained ringers.
Then, if that bird is caught again, the ring number holds information on a database of when and where it was previously ringed, so it can build a better picture of birds’ flight patterns and behaviour.
Can you see that the bird on the right has a white moustache and an orange throat? It’s wings are partially grey, not totally blue. This is a young swallow – a juvenile.
Swallows often have 2 or 3 broods, so by September there can be quite a gang ready to fly south.
When they’re preparing to go, all the swallows become very excited, crowding on wires and roofs together and then all flitting up into the sky.
What tells them it’s the right time? And how do they know which direction to go? And how do they find their way back next year?
Challenge – can you draw a swallow’s route from your home town to Africa?
For those who’d like to know a wee bit more about swifts, sand martins and house martins, look below:
Please see Chirpy Challenge 13
Sand martins have sandy brown backs with white underneath, with a much shorter tail than a swallow. They’re found near rivers and can be seen catching insects over or near water – both river and sea.
They make burrows in sandy banks and in the video below you can see one digging out its nest site 🙂
House martins have bluey wings, similar to swallows. Like sand martins, their tails are much shorter than swallows. It can be tricky to tell these fliers apart.
There is one main difference between house martins and the other birds in this post; house martins have a white rump above their tail, which can be seen especially in flight.
These birds make oval-shaped nests out of mud, which are usually seen in the corner of windows or eaves of older houses.
Hope this helps!
See you next week 🙂