Last week I spotted my first of the year Tree Swallows at the entrance to Antelope Island State Park and got excited by their return. Not only are Tree Swallows colorful and beautiful they are bug-zapping machines and keep the number of flying insects down. Anything that terrorizes mosquitoes is a hero in my book! And because of our warm winter and early spring I have been seeing mosquitoes for weeks.
Tree Swallows eat all kinds of flying insects: midges, mosquitoes, dragonflies, damselflies, flies, mayflies, true bugs, sawflies, bees, ants, wasps, beetles, stoneflies, butterflies, and moths and spiders.
During the breeding season they can also be seen eating high calcium foods like discarded egg shells, fish bones and the exoskeletons of crustaceans.
Tree Swallows are cavity nesting birds and rely on other species such as woodpeckers and sapsuckers to create nesting cavities in trees and they often take over the older cavities. They will also nest in man made nest boxes set up for them or take over the boxes set up for bluebirds.
When I see large stands of Tree Swallows at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge and all of them are calling they are quite noisy but I wouldn’t call it deafening. I find it appealing!
It won’t be long now before I can photograph these jewel-colored swallows fighting over nest boxes, bringing in nesting materials and flying into nest boxes to feed their young.
Even though the one bird in the image above is out of focus I wanted to include it to show how they squabble at their nests, besides, I like the shadow of the bird in flight on the nest box!
Life is good.
These images were taken in previous years at Red Rock Lakes NWR in Montana and Bear River NWR in Utah.
PS: I am going to be away for a few days and will be posting from the road.