Tree Swallows are one of my favorite birds because they are one of the earliest birds to return from their southern wintering grounds. When I see my first Tree Swallow I truly know that the warmer, sunnier days of spring really are coming.
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are birds of marshes and open fields, and I often see them over the impoundments at my local wildlife Refuge. They hawk insects from the air, and since there are always lots of insects above the water in these ponds, the swallows have plenty to eat.
Tree Swallows nest in boxes, often in boxes placed out in the water. They will also use tree cavities, but it’s quite easy to attract them to a properly sized nest box.
I really enjoy this time of year when their flashes of iridescent blue sparkle above the water. They are amazing flyers, and I’ve spent a lot of time watching them scoop insects from the air.
They can also be seen chasing down other birds feathers, which they use to line their nests. Maybe they are the originators of the down blanket? When you open a box to clean out last years nests, you will see that they have woven a lot of feathers into each nest, maybe to keep their eggs and nestlings warm, since they return north.
One reason that Tree Swallows are able to return so early and get their nests built and eggs laid before the other swallows return is that they don’t go that far south for the winter, staying in Mexico and Central America as well as the Caribbean, but not venturing very far into South America.
After breeding season, these swallows gather together in large flocks, which can most easily be spotted around dusk as the flock swirls around over the water until all of them have dropped down to roost for the night.