My Barn Swallow Friends

Young swallows ready for their meal in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Young swallows ready for their meal (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Feathered friends abound year long, but my favorite time is late spring when so many flock here to create nests and start new families.  That’s when the barn swallows arrive and begin preparing mud homes for their next generation.  Hirundo rustica, best described as a small, dark colored, tan under-sided bird with a two prong fork tail and pointed wings, does not come to me (like most of my other birds) for the choice bird seed I supply.  Instead, they happily set up residence in our horse’s barn because it is the opportune site for them.  The barn has high open rafters and crossbeams to accommodate their nests, and all the mud they could ever need for nest creation is right outside the barn.  The fields surrounding the barn are full of insects (flies are their main food source, but they also eat beetles, wasps and moths) and there is a stream only a few feet away.

The same babies a week later in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The same babies a week later (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

According to legend, the barn swallow got its forked tail because, after stealing fire from the gods, an angry deity hurled a fireball at the swallow that burned away its middle tail feathers.  We were introduced to these industrious fork tailed birds the first year in our home, when they made their mud bungalow under the awning outside our bathroom window (swallows lay 3-7 eggs per clutch, and 1-2 broods each year).  A few weeks later, the mother swallow made it very clear that she would not tolerate our constant visits once her babies hatched (incubation is 12-17 days and the chicks stay in the nest from 15-27 days).  Luckily, we had a second bathroom to use until the young were able to leave the nest.

Young swallows looking for lunch in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Young swallows looking for lunch (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

During construction of our garage the following year, another female swallow decided that was the spot she wanted to start her family.  Much to the chagrin of the construction crew, everything came to a halt for the next few months.  Because I was parking my car in the garage, a large sheet was kept on the hood to catch all the mud and daily droppings.  However, having the opportunity to watch the chicks hatch, to see their little beaks open as they waited for mama and papa to bring meals and finally, to experience their first flight attempt as the patient parents coaxed them on, made it all worthwhile!

These youngsters are ready to fly in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

These youngsters are ready to fly (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Our adult barn swallows are out and about during the day and evening, often looking more like daredevil airplane pilots than birds as they swoop and dive to catch insects.  It is amazing to watch as they dart about (at 40 MPH) while my husband mows, efficiently nabbing the bugs he stirs up along the way.  At first, they came so close to Ged we worried that they were protecting a nearby nest, but soon realized their true mission as “airborne insect apprehenders.” In fact, it is estimated that barn swallows cover as much as 600 miles per day in their quest for food. And that, my friends, equals a lot of pesky insects that aren’t clamoring to get into your house or chewing up your garden.

A watchful swallow parent in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A watchful swallow parent (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

This summer, I am once again privileged to witness four baby swallows grow up and take to the skies.  When I go out in the morning to care for my horses, the youngsters greet me from a nearby tree with happy chirps to brag about their recent flight exploits.  I realize each day how truly blessed I am to share my home with the abundant wildlife surrounding me, and all the beauty that that entails♥


  1. Great story- love the Babies!

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