Still Swallow

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) Photo by Phil Rowntree

What an odd bird is the Barn Swallow! They fly fast and everywhere and with swift maneuvers, making sharp turns and steep dives and climbs, never stopping, always making their living in the most difficult way by snatching insects out of the air. They must have superb eyesight. In flight they look sleek, aerodynamic to a fault, totally adapted to speed and maneuver. They have been clocked in flight at 25 to 45 mph, sometimes zooming past just inches from the ground. They drink by skimming over the water surface and scooping up a few drops with their open beak. It’s very, very difficult to get a photograph of them in flight.

Photographer Phil Rowntree, whose work has appeared several times on this platform, got lucky. He caught a Barn Swallow resting. That doesn’t happen very often. Looking at this bird at rest, you might never guess that it’s a demon of the airspace, or that it flies at all. It looks like a fat frog, broad in the beam and wide in the forehead, not at all like the military fighter jets that humans design. It looks like its M.O. is to sit in place and wait for a bug to come to it, much as the phoebes may do.

Barn Swallows breed throughout North America. The most northerly populations may migrate thousands of miles to South America and islands in the Caribbean. Assuming that the ones we see in and around the park breed here somewhere, the question is, where? As the name implies, they build their nests on human-made structures. However, there aren’t any barns in or around the park. Possibly they have built nests somewhere on the buildings of the Hilton Doubletree Hotel. If you have seen a Barn Swallow nest please post a comment.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) Photo by Phil Rowntree

More about them: Wikipedia Cornell Audubon

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