Each year a pair of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) build their cup-shaped mud nests under the eaves of our back porch (Lookout CA). They make quite a mess on the porch, however, Leonard and I enjoy watching the barn swallows as they select their nest site until the chicks fledge. If we are lucky the pair has a second brood before heading south for the winter. The pleasure we derive from the swallows outweighs the mud and guano spatters.
This year I paid special attention to the communication between the parents and the nestlings. The chicks, when newborn, would peek over the edge of the nest and later would sit on the edge of the nest. Even if I could not see them, there was always a vigilant parent nearby. As soon as anyone came to the door or came across the yard toward the porch, a parent would immediately call out and fly toward the nest. When they heard the call, even if the parent was not yet near the nest, the chicks would immediately drop down into the nest and completely hide. (Fortunately I can watch the nest through the kitchen window without raising the alarm.)
There were four baby swallows this year. Now that the nestlings have fledged, they fly around the yard strengthening their hunting and flying skills. One afternoon the four nestlings were huddled together on a branch outside my study window – a perfect photo opportunity. I watched them for perhaps fifteen minutes. They never moved and I never saw an adult swallow nearby. I grabbed my camera and went outside. Before the fledglings could see me, I heard the parents call and the youngsters immediately flew off. The parents were obviously closely monitoring their offspring.
This picture was taken seconds after the young swallow fledged. It flew from the porch to a nearby lilac tree. Obviously tired, the swallow sat under the tree to catch its breath before attempting flight again.
The barn swallows continue to fly around their empty nest. Might they decide to have a second brood this year??
In 2012 I did a series of posts on a barn swallow pair documenting the cycle from selecting the nesting site through the fledging of the brood. The 2012 story is available by checking the 07-30-2-12 “Empty Nesters” post and following the links.