Sweet Baby James…and Jennifer and Jessica and Jack and Jill and Josh and Jesse and Joy and Juliet and Jagger…and 100+ more! The nests are simply bursting with babies! Aren’t they the cutest things ever? I love their sweet little faces and their furry little baby feathers!
Here are mores picture of the babies:
And, a close-up of the feature picture:
And, they are growing fast. The pictures above were taken May 26th, my first “sighting” of babies and two weeks later on June 7th, they looked like this:
This “Sweet Baby James” looks so fierce, doesn’t he?
Their growth is simply astounding! They’re still in the nests, even as big as they appear to be. Cliff Swallows only leave the nest once; there is no turning back. So, they wait until just the right moment before attempting their first flight.
Adult Cliff Swallows, both male and female, feed the babies multiple times a day. Swallows are “aerial feeders” meaning that they catch their prey “in flight” and then bring the insects back to the babies. Although my husband, Charlie, would disagree with this, people benefit from swallows because they keep the aerial insect population down, such as mosquitos. I have never seen a mosquito on our property!
You can tell the difference between the babies and the adults because the young swallows have a splattering of polka-dot feathers on their heads over their eyes and under their beaks. Age they age, the dots on their heads transform into the familiar cream band that runs between their eyes and the dots on their chests turn russet-colored.
Here’s the backstory to our swallow colony: in the Spring of 2009, a small colony of swallows built five nests under the eaves of our kitchen window. They were such fun to watch – swirling, darting and diving as they built their mud nests, singing a twittering chirp anytime you walked out the door (their alarm system) and making a small mess of poop and mud under the kitchen window. What we didn’t know, at the time, is that baby swallows return to where they were born. So, here’s the swallow nest count up to today:
- 2009 – 5 nests
- 2010 – 23 nests (increase = +400%)
- 2011 – 64 nests (increase = almost 300%)
- 2012 – 116 nests (increase = almost 200%)
- 2013 – 95 nests (decrease = roughly 20%)
Cliff swallows mate for life and since the nest count has increased substantially year-after-year, I was confident that we would reach almost 250 nests this year! That didn’t happen, so I’m guessing that one or all the following occurred:
- less babies were born in 2012
- adult swallows and/or babies succumbed to an early demise
- they built nests somewhere else
In any event, we have quite a flock and poop is everywhere! We jokingly call our house and property “Casa Bella”, but I think we need to rename it “Casa Poop” or “Casa Watch Your Step” or “Casa Bombs Away” – any of those will do because with poop everywhere, you have to watch your step and look out overhead every time you walk outside!
And, yes, we periodically clean up the poop, but it magically returns – day after day after day after day – the gift that keeps on giving!
Last year, they left in August to fly back to Argentina (yes, they come all the way from Argentina every year – isn’t that amazing?!?). I’m hoping that since the babies are growing so fast, they’ll leave earlier this year and we’ll be able to reclaim our backyard area for pool parties and outdoor grilling without the fear of being pooped on!
So, how did we get so lucky as to have swallows find our house in the middle of nowhere and decide that it was their sanctuary? Well, read my earlier post: Operation Swallow Adios for the surprising answer! It’s pretty funny, too.
Charlie dislikes them because he hates the mess. But, I love them so I’m not going to be in charge of getting rid of them. If he wants them gone, then he needs to do the research and contact a company that can help us discourage them from coming back.
BTW: in the US, it is illegal to remove the nests once they have been built until after the babies are born and the birds have left and flown south to Argentina (a little thing called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918). And, every year Charlie says he’s going to call around and find some company that will come out and put up a barrier under our eaves. And, every year he doesn’t. Stalemate!
Anyway, I enjoy them as does Coco, our Snowshoe Siamese cat. Coco is an indoor cat, so the Cliff Swallows give him many hours of entertainment for about 4 to 5 months out of the year.
Does you child need to do a report on something to do with nature? I give you permission to use this information and my pictures from any of these swallow posts; please just credit the source (Toot Sweet 4 Two) in your report!
(other posts about the Cliff Swallows)