My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

The Tree Swallow is a migratory passerine bird that breeds in North America and winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

This swallow averages 13.5 cm (5.3 in) long and weighs about 20 g (0.71 oz). The bill is tiny. The adult Tree Swallow has iridescent blue-green upper parts, white underparts, and a very slightly forked tail. The female usually has duller colors than the male, often more greenish than the more bluish male. The juvenile plumage is dull grey-brown above and may have hint of a grey breast band.

Being highly social outside of the breeding season, tree swallows may form flocks of several thousand birds near roost sites. Flocks near Vacherie, Louisiana were estimated to contain well over 1 million birds during December 2009.

Tree Swallows nest in natural or artificial cavities near water and are often found in large flocks. They readily use nest boxes, including those built for bluebirds. Declines in cavity-builder populations are resulting in fewer natural nesting sites for Tree Swallows, although the swallow population remains healthy.

The Tree Swallow nest consists of multiple layers of grasses and thin twigs, and is often lined with feathers from other species. The female lays 4 to 7 white eggs and incubates them by herself. The eggs hatch in about 14 days and the hatchlings are altricial. The hatchlings typically fledge in 16–24 days. While there are young or eggs in the nest, adults frequently dive bomb intruders (including curious humans) and attempt to drive them from the area. Tree Swallows are known to “fight” over feathers in mid-air for reasons which are still under investigation. There is some speculation that this is a form of play.

Tree Swallows are typically single-brooded, although they may attempt a second nest if the first fails early in the season. There are records of parents raising two successful broods in a season.

They subsist primarily on a diet of insects, sometimes supplemented with small quantities of fruit. They are excellent fliers and take off from their perch and acrobatically catch insects in their bills in mid-air.

On to my photos:

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

This is number 138 in my photo life list, only 212 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


8 responses

  1. Beautiful bird!

    December 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

    • Thanks, the bug in the first photo was lucky that the swallow had enough to eat.

      December 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

  2. Merry Christmas, my friend! May you see as many birds as your heart desires in the upcoming New Year…

    December 24, 2013 at 11:40 am

    • And a Merry Christmas to you!

      December 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

  3. Merry Christmas, Jerry! I love the iridescent colors of these feisty little guys!

    December 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    • Thanks, I think that they are the true harbingers of spring, and a Merry Christmas to you as well.

      December 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

  4. Did I hear ‘harbingers of Spring?’ I’m all for it.
    Have a great Christmas Jerry!

    December 24, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    • Merry Christmas Allen!

      December 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm