Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
Tompkins - Friday, June 1 2012
images by: Arlene Willows

In every part of the world with the exception of the continent of Antarctica there are swallows (Hirundinidae). Eighty-three species of them, but they all have some important things in common. Swallows are the fighter pilots of the bird world. Oh, gulls look great and do the job of flying well, the swans and geese are the heavy lifters and they show outstanding capabilities, while ducks are amphibians with lots of speed, but swallows can get in and out of areas fast and cleanly, they climb at an astonishing rate and they land with remarkable simplicity. The second thing about swallows is that most have a sort of forked tail. Purple Martins who are swallows are an exception with a flat ended tail but the ones we see in Saskatchewan have two sharp corners jutting out of their tail. The third thing that makes a swallow a swallow is their bill.

Now the beak on a bird is really important, it tells you the kind of food they eat and defines the kind of bird they are. We all know about pelicans with a bill over a foot long with a bag, and seed eating sparrows have strong sturdy bills, while robins have refined bill ideal for dealing with earth worms. The bill of a swallow is really small but they have a large mouth compared to the size of their head. That is because all swallows feed in the air scooping up insects.

The most common swallow in most of Saskatchewan is the barn swallow who most property owners dislike because their mud nest make such a mess. Purple Martins are popular with us all because their hard working patrol work over our neighbourhoods consume amazing amounts of insects. In some parts of Saskatchewan there are some very cool Hill Swallows you make their nests in sandy cliffs but the Tree Swallow is not so often seen.

Tree Swallows, like other swallows are very nicely coloured and their white belly is capped off with an iridescent blue/green hue. In some light they will appear to be blue but the colour is actually a very dark green. They are found pretty much all over the United States but only a small population here in Canada will be home to these feathered insect eaters.

Update: Larry Duncan who lives in Alberta read this story and here is what he had to say about it on June 10, 2012;

You say that you have far more barn swallows in Canada. Which may be correct. But here in Alberta we have far more tree swallows than barn swallows.

I have lived in more than one place in Alberta and the same is true in each place.