BARN SWALLOW – (Hirundo rustica)
The Barn swallow is easy to identify due to its long forked tail and its rufous throat. The top parts are dark blue and the under parts white. For the female those colors are duller. This bird is about 18 cm (7 in.) long.
The barn swallow is not a fast flier but has the necessary agility to catch flying insects. It has the capacity to open its mouth wide to catch insects. Barn swallows roost in large numbers when non breeding.
Barn swallows have had a long relationship with humans. They are very protective of their nests and will not hesitate to swoop down on any perceived threat, be it a cat, dog, or human. They are appreciated for their diet – insects, that they catch on the fly. They are often seen flying low above water hunting for insects, leading to the superstition that if one of their wings touches the water, bad weather is coming. The barn swallow also has the reputation of announcing spring, although other bird species do arrive earlier from their winter migrations.
Barn swallow nest: The barn swallow has a unique way of building its nest. In the wild it uses vertical surfaces in caves, but now this bird has well adapted its nesting behavior to human civilization. This bird’s nest can be found attached to all types of building structures, especially old barns. It draws its name (Latin, English and French) from that behavior. It is made of mud, mixed with the bird’s saliva. Below is a photo (not taken on PEI though) of a typical barn swallow nest.
Conservation: The barn swallow is one of the most common and widespread land birds throughout the world. It breeds in the northern hemisphere and winters in the southern hemisphere. A small percentage (around 4%) of its global population breeds in Canada, and in the Maritimes as elsewhere its numbers have declined. This decline impacts birds that feed on flying insects, and its cause is still unclear. The barn swallow is now listed as ‘threatened’ in Canada. In PEI the barn swallow, although still fairly common, has declined by 76% in the last few decades, and is now mostly found in agricultural areas. Island Nature Trust has a conservation program for this bird in PEI.