There are many interesting facts about Tree Swallows, but what I found fun was their territory disputes. So Happy Monday with a few…
Tree Swallow Antics
Two nesting boxes were at the overlook parking area of the nature preserve, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. You would think two boxes was a bit stingy for so many birds at this bustling bird refuge. The numerous swallows kept chasing off each other, with no bird actually claiming the nesting box. In fact, the greedy swallows tried to command both boxes. We had no idea what one pair would do with two boxes.
This went on for a long time and we were wondering why the two boxes were even next to each other since the swallows did not like having the company. The birder we talked with said the swallows would not bother a Blue Bird if it took possession of the other house, yet would fight off those of its own species. And that they did. There is a bird in the box above being harassed while trying to keep the box it temporarily occupies.
The bird below is on the fence and looking back at the box, surely plotting the next move.
Did you ever try to photograph them flying? Yikes, they are fast and jerky little buggers. I bet a lot of you never saw one really close. I know I didn’t. They are attractive dressed in iridescent blue and bright white. From below, all I ever saw was the white.
Cornell says they make beautiful social patterns in the sky each day at dusk, but the ones flying above the nesting boxes were in a disorganized frenzy. We did not stay long enough for them to form a dense cloud of birds before settling in for the roost. Below they are likely feeding on insects with that seemingly chaotic aerial display.
I found them fascinating, but more fun when they landed. The birdwatcher that was viewing nearby said we will never get closer to them than we were here. I was about twelve feet away from the birds on the fence with my 400mm lens. I walked to within five feet just to see how close I could get. Some flew right by me where I could have snatched them from the air. The flying birds above were very high in the sky. I just cropped the images severely.
These birds are supposed to be very social. I guess all bets are off when a pair needs a nesting box and there are more pairs than boxes. Note some of them are banded. One thing interesting about them, they are readily studied because of their eagerness to nest in boxes like above. To read about them, see this article by an expert.
These two appeared to have a disagreement, where the one looks really mad at the other.
Feathers get ruffled.
The grumpy one nudges the other off the box.
And it leaves.
Even though the other bird is gone, the bird on the box still looks mad. I don’t think I would stick around this little grump either.
Seriously though, this was all new to me since I have had little experience with Tree Swallows. Check out this post from Nick Hunter on installation of eight blue bird nesting boxes, Habitat Management for Songbirds. Nick blogs at Nick’s Nature Pics.
“My management practices are guided by some basic principles that help keep me pointed in the right direction: copy nature, enhance biodiversity, and plan for sustainable, cost-effective activities,” Nick Hunter said in his post.
Like this refuge, Nick also set up his boxes in pairs.