About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blue and orange bird making mud nest

I actually have a barn swallow nesting on my house! The nest construction was amazing. It looked like there were several birds building the nest. How long does she sit on the eggs? ~ Portland, MI

Barn Swallows have a steely blue back, head, wings, and tail, and a rufous neck and tan belly. White spots under the scissor tail can be difficult to see except in flight. Males are more boldly colored than females.

In Michigan, Barn Swallows come up from South America in the spring to breed. They are very adaptable birds and can nest anywhere with open areas for foraging, a water source, and a sheltered ledge. Barn Swallows once nested in caves throughout North America, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.

Both birds of a pair make the nest. They build the shell of mud, and line it with grass and feathers. Unmated adult males or “helpers” often associate with a breeding pair to assist in nest building, nest defense, incubation and brooding. "Helpers" may also succeed in mating with the resident female, leading to polygyny. Juveniles from the first brood of the season have also been observed assisting their parents in feeding a second brood.

Breeding pairs form each spring and can produce 2 clutches per season from May until August. Both parents incubate about 5 eggs for about two weeks, feed their nestlings for about 20 days and continue to feed them for about 2 weeks after they have fledged.

Barn swallows are quite effective in reducing insect pest populations. While in the nest, barn swallow parents may feed their nestlings up to 400 times per day. Flies, grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, beetles, moths and other flying insects make up 99 % of their diet. They catch most of their prey while in flight, and are able to feed their young at the nest while flying.

The survival of the Barn Swallows and their relationship with humans may have been helped by superstition that any damage to a Barn Swallow's nest leads to cows with no milk and to hens without eggs.

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