Beloved Barn Swallow is now an endangered species 0
The other day, I was very pleased to observe several Barn Swallows flying over the Micksburg swamp in search of food. For years, this bird has been taken for granted, and now, sadly, has been added to Ontario’s threatened species list.
The Barn Swallow (Hirando rustica) is one of the most wide ranging birds in the world, and can be found on almost every continent. Since early colonial days, this bird has been a farmer’s friend because it eats many crop-destroying insects. It can be seen in open or semi-open land, farms, in fields and marshes, and sitting on wires near human habitats.
The Barn Swallow is the only North American Swallow with a buff or cinnamon chest or underparts. It also has a distinctive, white-spotted, deeply forked tail.
In order to feed itself, this bird flies close to the ground or water. It enjoys a wide variety of flying insects or insects that are stirred up by farmers working in the fields.
In terms of courtship, it is the male Barn Swallow that chases the female. He flies after the female and tries to catch her tail feathers in mid-air. Upon landing on the ground, the pair will then preen each other.
The Barn Swallow likes to build its nest in colonies. The nests are often built in barns or other buildings, under bridges, on ridges of cliffs, under culverts, and occasionally, attached to the banks of rivers and lakes. The nest is made by both sexes. It is made of clay or mud, dried stems, grasses and straw. It is lined with horsehair, down, and feathers.
This Swallow has two broods per year. The eggs of the Barn Swallow are incubated by both sexes for 13-17 days. The young stay in the nest for another 18-23 days.
The Barn Swallow can be found nearly all over North America. In the winter, it migrates south to Costa Rica, Argentina, Africa and South Asia. Despite being placed on Ontario’s threatened bird species list, I believe this bird is quite adaptable, and with some conservation of its habitat, should survive for centuries to come!
Elsewhere on the local scene, many of the birds are beginning to mass and prepare for the fall migration. Already, there are large flocks of Blackbirds massing in the fields, and some of the birds like the Bobolinks; Chimney Swifts will be leaving soon.
In the woods, several of the songbird species will be forming small pockets as they too feed up for their journey south. Over the next three weeks, these birds will also be joined by many fall warblers from the north.
Interestingly, the fall migration of the shore birds started very early this summer, and thousands of these birds are appearing all over in both southern and eastern Ontario. Most of these shorebirds have just flown over our area in the night, but we have had some good reports of these birds in the area.
On August 2, JimVienneau updated me with the bird activity around his home and in his area. The highlight of his bird sightings are the 20-plus Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have been coming to his nectar feeders. He also observed his first Black and White Warbler at his feeder, an American Redstart, several Blackbirds, an Eastern Phoebe, and, on Murphy Road, a Belted Kingfisher.
On this same date, Ron Bertrand answered my call for shore bird sightings in our area. At the end of July, he observed a large flock of shorebirds at the Pembroke Marina on the sand spits. These included at least a hundred Least Sandpipers, two Semi-palmeated Plovers, three Solitary Sandpipers, and a possible White-rumped Sandpiper. Great sighting!
At his feeder, Ron reported that he has several Purple and House Finches and 12 Evening Grosbeaks. These birds have become quite scarce over the last decade!
Finally, around this same period, Manson Fleguel also observed a large flock of shorebirds at the Pembroke Marina that was brought down from an approaching storm. In this large flock, he observed 50 Semi-palmeated Plovers, a few Least Sandpipers, several Semi-palmeated Sandpipers, and two Spotted Sandpipers. Just before a storm or just after are the best times to find these birds at this time of year.
Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430 or e-mail me at: email@example.com. For more information on birds and nature events, I refer you to the Pembroke Field Naturalists’ website at: www.pafn.ca.