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June 16, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Barn Swallow Nestwatch

I have been monitoring a Barn Swallow nest for Project Nestwatch, a citizen science program.

NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.

Barn Swallows are migratory and spend their winters in South America. In the summer months they can be found across most of North America. I discovered this nesting location last year and was excited to find that a pair of birds returned to the same place this year.

Barn Swallow Nestlings

When I arrived at the nest on Monday, instead of mom sitting on the eggs, I saw three little faces looking down at me. They appear to be a little over one week old. They usually open their eyes about the fifth day.

Barn Swallow Nestlings

Both of the parents bring food to the nest, mainly insects, which are caught in flight. The female spends the night with the young while the male roosts elsewhere.

Interesting Facts:

  • Barn Swallows once nested in caves throughout North America, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.
  • Females prefer to mate with males that have the longest and most symmetrical tails and a dark red chest color.
  • Nests are constructed of mud by both the male and female, making up to 1,000 trips to collect it.
  • The killing of Barn Swallows for their feathers was one of the problems that led to the founding of the Audubon Society and the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. Cathy / Jun 16 2012 1:58 am

    Great photos, Leslie! I’ll be posting about barn swallows in a couple of weeks.


  2. Louise / Jun 16 2012 3:03 am

    I love that first photo, with their fuzzy little heads. Swallows are such fascinating birds.


  3. Margaret @ BooksPlease / Jun 16 2012 3:40 am

    Wonderful! Those barn swallows are a bit different from the swallows we get here at this time of year. They’re a sight to see swooping around the trees in our garden.


  4. Cipriano / Jun 16 2012 4:30 am

    What great pics. I am a very-much bird fan!
    Not that I’m all Charles Darwin or anything here, but that first pic, it strikes me how similar the fledging beak resembles the general visage of a modern-day lizard!


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:28 pm

      Very true! I hadn’t thought about it but they do resemble lizards. I thought they looked a little grumpy having to wait for their food.


  5. Eleenie / Jun 16 2012 5:42 am

    They’re beautiful. A pair of swallows have made a nest just outside our front door this year, we’re waiting in anticipation for the arrival of some little faces! It is apparently considered lucky if swallows nest on your property, so we’re feeling very blessed indeed this year.


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:30 pm

      I didn’t know they brought good luck. Your front door? You’re going to be ducking and swerving to avoid the diving parents for a few weeks then.


      • Eleenie / Jun 16 2012 12:43 pm

        Yes, definitely! They’re in and around the house all the time, thankfully all my windows are open so they can swoop about without any problems. As long as they continue to keep the fly and mosquito population down a little, we’re happy to duck for a while!


  6. zaraalexis / Jun 16 2012 6:03 am

    Look at that! Great close-ups.


  7. Trish / Jun 16 2012 6:38 am

    I love seeing barn swallows swoop and dive in flight. They’re like acrobats!


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:31 pm

      There is a small marsh near the nest and while I was watching the babies I could see the parents swooping over the water catching insects for their meal. I wanted to get a photo but they are way too fast for my camera.


  8. Mary / Jun 16 2012 6:40 am

    Oh my goodness they are adorable. I imagine they were surprised to see you! Thanks for the info.


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:32 pm

      They have that, “You’re not my mommie” look on their face, don’t they!


  9. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / Jun 16 2012 6:43 am

    Fabulous photos Leslie!


  10. laurelrainsnow / Jun 16 2012 7:15 am

    The feathers are lovely, but I cringe when I think of killing the birds to get the feathers! The Audubon Society is wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:33 pm

      Sadly, that happened a lot until laws were put in place to stop it.


  11. Jayme@Beachreader / Jun 16 2012 7:18 am

    It looks like daddy bird is giving you the evil eye 🙂


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:35 pm

      They were not happy to see me. When I arrived one of the parents dove at my head and screeched at me. I only stay about 5 or 10 minutes at a time because the parents don’t like to feed the the nestlings when anyone is there.


  12. Eugenia O'Neal / Jun 16 2012 7:28 am

    Great pictures! Groups like the Audubon Society have done and continue to do excellent conservation work.


  13. Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf / Jun 16 2012 7:40 am

    Amazing shots! Baby birds are so sweet 🙂


  14. BermudaOnion / Jun 16 2012 7:43 am

    How adorable! They look like they’re pouting in the top photo!


  15. mostraum / Jun 16 2012 7:53 am

    Great pictures. And you give us some education too, that’s great.


  16. Marie / Jun 16 2012 8:19 am

    I love these photos! It’s exciting to see baby birds and adults in action. Thanks for all of the great information, too. Awesome!


  17. Judy Blauer / Jun 16 2012 9:02 am

    I am fascinated by their nest buidling. What funny little faces the babies have! Great photos.


  18. Paulita / Jun 16 2012 9:09 am

    They look hilarious with those big mouths closed in the first shot.
    Here’s Mine


  19. gautami tripathy / Jun 16 2012 10:45 am

    I never saw anything like this! Wonder shots!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  20. sim@chapter1-take1 / Jun 16 2012 11:21 am

    Amazing! I can’t imagine the feeling of seeing those swallows up close. AND I’m astounded that the theft of their feathers was the impetus for the founding of the Audubon Society. Fascinating!


  21. Christine Harding / Jun 16 2012 11:49 am

    However do you get those incredible pictures? Do you have a zoom lens, or do you clamber up to get level with them? My Snapshots, are at


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:38 pm

      Both! I have a 250mm zoom lens, but I still need to get fairly close to get sharp photos. So I climbed up on a picnic table to get a better angle.


  22. dyane / Jun 16 2012 11:54 am

    awwwwwww they are just too cute 🙂 great shots!


  23. Kailana / Jun 16 2012 12:07 pm

    My in-laws have barn swallows, but there are also dogs… I am not sure how many actually make it to adult-hood….


    • Leslie / Jun 16 2012 12:41 pm

      I rarely see Barn Swallows on the ground. Last year’s fledglings went directly to the trees and unlike a lot of other birds, they catch their food while flying. Cats are a much larger problem for birds.


  24. cherylmahoney / Jun 16 2012 2:24 pm

    What wonderful shots of the baby birds! So impressed. 🙂


  25. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jun 16 2012 5:34 pm

    Your bird photos never disappoint –amazing and interesting as well.


  26. Bev@My Reader's Block / Jun 16 2012 7:17 pm

    The pictures are fabulous, as always. The babies look like grumpy old men with bushy eyebrows in that first picture. Lol.

    Here’s my Snapshot.


  27. lmkazmierczak / Jun 16 2012 8:02 pm

    interesting…had not heard of Nestwatch. Great captures♫♪


  28. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Jun 17 2012 9:26 am

    I never knew that about people wanting barn swallow feathers – they’re pretty, but that just seems odd to me. Lovely photos!


    • Leslie / Jun 17 2012 9:35 am

      The feathers were used on ladies hats. In the late 19th century it was all the rage. The more exotic the bird, the more prized the hat. Birds were hunted around the world for their feathers.


  29. Kim V / Jun 18 2012 1:13 pm

    Adorable! Thanks for sharing!



  1. Weekend Birding: Barn Swallows Leave the Nest « Under My Apple Tree
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