Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Bird Watch: July 8

The Barn Swallow. Scientific name: Hirundo rustica

July 8, 2021 By Joseph Palmer
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This week Brooklyn Bird Watch will feature several Heather Wolf photos of colorful juveniles from different bird species, starting with the Barn Swallow. These Swallows apparently spend enough time in Brooklyn Bridge Park to mate and raise their chicks. The Audubon maps indicate that New York is a “common” area for the Barn Swallow.

(But they never appear as far south as this transplanted Brooklynite: the Sun State.)

As the song goes, “It’s a family affair“ — an interesting trait of this bird that looks like a sparrow with lots of different colors, (cobalt blue, orange and brown with a white chest and highlights) is that a couple will trust nesting duties to other Barn Swallows. As Audubon points out, “One or two additional birds, the pair’s offspring from previous broods, may attend the nest and sometimes feed the nestlings.”

Barn Swallows are graceful and skilled fliers. Primarily they fly low to the ground like long swift waves and catch and eat flying insects in mid-air. Their in-flight meals include flies, horse flies, wasps, wild bees and winged ants. Sometimes they will catch moths or grasshoppers. Only rarely do they eat berries or seeds so they do not frequent stationary bird feeders; but if you do happen to see one, even passing in flight, it is a visual pleasure worth the effort.  

Something else interesting about this ancient swallow species: originally they built their nests, cup-like structures made of straw and mud, attached to a corner of a cave. Over time, they changed behavior to build these nests on manmade objects (like barns for example). And today it would be difficult to find a Barn Swallow nest not attached to some manmade structure in an urban area. And such a transition is perfectly natural. After all, our own species emerged from caves over time.

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