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  • Writer's pictureTerry Wise

Our Tree Swallows Return to Carillon Stonegate Pond- not Capistrano!

These darling aerialists with deep-blue shimmering backs and white fronts are Tree Swallows. These small songbirds have long, pointed wings. Their tails are short, squared and slightly notched. And they have very short, flat bills.

Seasonally, Tree Swallows are here from March through April at any of our ponds. Visualize a squadron of avian “Blue Angels” in acrobatic flight chasing after flying insects and skimming the surface of our ponds. They soar over our ponds in large groups - typically from six or more. They move swiftly and with great agility - avoiding each other as they search for food on the pond’s surface. And they put on this show two or three times each day!

The Tree Swallow is a small bird. Their average length is 5 ½ inches. They have a wingspan of approximately 12 inches. And they weigh in at only 3/4 of an ounce.

Tree Swallows are very agile fliers. Their flight style is called "Flap-gliding" where short bursts of flapping are alternated with intervals in which the wings are extended in a long glide. Using another analogy, this squadron of birds bears resemblance to “StarFighters” of the Star Wars series. They chase after flying insects with gliding, acrobatic twists and turns. Their steely blue-green feathers will glisten in the sunlight as they dart across Carillon Stonegate Pond. Tree Swallows tend to glide more than any other swallow species. They also “bathe” by flying low over the water and skimming their bodies against the surface.

Tree Swallows are highly social. They reside in small groups around our ponds. They form much larger migratory flocks. Migrating and wintering Tree Swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. You may have seen photos of these flocks, forming a dense cloud at dusk above a roost site - swirling around like a living tornado. And with each pass, more birds drop down until they are all settled on the roost.

Tree Swallows dine primarily on a diet of insects. They eat all kinds of flying insects, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, mayflies, caddisflies, true bugs, sawflies, bees, ants, wasps, beetles, stoneflies, butterflies, and moths. They feed from dawn to dusk. As seasons change and insects become less available, Tree Swallows will eat berries and seeds.

Tree Swallows breed in fields, marshes, shorelines, wooded swamps, and ponds throughout northern North America. They prefer to live near bodies of water that produce multitudes of flying insects for food. Tree Swallows nest in natural cavities of standing dead trees, old woodpecker cavities, or nest boxes.

So, while they remain here over the next month, take a stroll down the path along our ponds and observe these flying daredevils - the "Blue Angels" of the bird world!

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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