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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barn Swallow, Tree Swallows

Barn Swallow

Tree Swallows

We just saw some migrating Barn Swallows in southern GA, another sign of spring. We saw 2 of them them on the coast, gliding over some dune areas with ponds where there were some insects, which they were eating. When we have been in FL in March, we have also seen Barn Swallows migrating along the coast, flying singly or in a very small groups.

Contrast this with our experiences of Tree Swallows, who we see wintering and migrating in impressively large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands. Perhaps this difference in migration strategies has to do with these different swallow species food sources. In winter, Tree Swallows eat insects but especially Bayberries, and in the south, Wax Myrtle berries. The advantage of traveling in a large flock is that you have many eyes to search for the erratically located berry bushes. We have seen Tree Swallows in FL find a patch of Wax Myrtle and descend like a cloud, then gobble 'til the berries are depleted. During breeding, Tree Swallows eat insects, just like Barn Swallows.


Anonymous said...

During October and November here along the Georgia coast, it is a wonderful sight to behold thousand of Tree Swallow swarming around. Just like your photograph. But in August when it is way too hot Barn Swallow make me forget the heat. For hundreds fly by at eye level and I put my hand out by my sides and I can feel them going by. AWESOME is all I can say. Then there are the Banks that will get here in the hundreds as well. Swallows just inspire me.
Thanks for the blog.

Chris W said...

Great pictures! I remember last year, I was down in the NW part of FL and came across a flock of Tree swallows... a huge flock of Tree Swallows. The best way to describe the size of the flock would be: Take your TRSW picture and multiply it by 50 in both directions and by 30 deep and 30 high. Then fill the space almost completely with birds. That's how many swallows there were in the sky that evening in FL last year. They were as far as the eye could see in both directions up and down the shoreline and stretched well out over the bay.
I estimated around a million and a half or more.

--Chris W, The SW WI birder.

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