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Nature Notes: The Barn Swallows of Tsawwassen

Nature Notes is a new column in the Optimist prepared by the Delta Naturalists Society and their community partners
Nature notes Barn swallow chicks
Barn Swallow Chicks.

My neighbours and I are lucky enough to live in a small strata where for several weeks last and this year, our neighbours have been barn swallows.

These birds are very unobtrusive and go quietly about their business, building their nest with mud, grass and feathers. Nest building is a joint effort. 

After the nest is built, mama swallow lays a clutch of eggs and settles down to incubate them. She will lay three to seven eggs and incubate them for 12 to 17 days. During this time, papa swallow is busy bringing her food.

Swallows fly low in very graceful patterns and catch insects such as flies, moths, and mosquitoes. We can thank these little birds for disposing of a few objectionable insects who love to feed on us. Their reliance on insect food means they must time their migration to coincide with warm weather and the insects it produces. 

Last year was the first year we were privileged to share our premises with these beautiful birds. They had four hatchlings then. Those of us who watched them were sad when they left.

To our wonderful surprise this year, mama and papa swallow came back. This time they have raised five lovely little birds. They have now obtained their pilots’ licenses and have flown the coop. However, they come back with their parents to spend their nights in familiar and safe surroundings. As they have outgrown their small nest, I suspect they sleep on an overhead structure far above the reach of danger.   

As the numbers of birds everywhere are declining, we consider ourselves lucky to have these lovely little birds as our neighbours. Barn swallow populations have been declining at an alarming rate due to loss of nesting habitat as farm buildings disappear from the landscape, among other factors.

We hope for the safe return of our swallows next year.

Editor’s note: Nature Notes is a new column in the Optimist prepared by the Delta Naturalists Society and their community partners.

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