Clearwater FL: 11-15 Feb 2009.

Quick family visit.  It feels like the nursery and the lake are about the only green space left in the county not plowed up into condos.  A pelican, 4 ospreys (Father says dryly, ‘There are plenty to go around lately.’) A pair of huge white water birds – 3.5′ tall, black legs, straight stabbing beaks.  No idea what any of these things were, since the old family home is fitted out with binoculars but no field guides of any sort.  (My grandfather would roll over in his grave.)

Finished reading Robbing the Bees.  Overflowing with great factoids, but as a whole–never seduced me.  Couldn’t quite shake off being annoyed by the whiff of voyeurism on the part of its big city narrator.   Still–I’d be proud to have written anything so smart: a book about insects that is still on the shelf at a popular bookstore for more than 5 minutes.  Bravo.


Hives and Haiku

This is a placeholder for Honey Bees, Bee-hives, Holly Bishop’s book Robbing the Bees, and Kathleen Miller–who gave us a tour of her apiary on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in the first week of 2009.

Note: Ruby the dog ate the bee, my natural history sample; snarfed it right off the coffee table when I wasn’t looking. I’m taking this as a humorous sign that I’m on the right life path/career track. Between Ruby’s ‘I’m going to barf expression’ and Gloria saying, ‘Isn’t a naturalist one of the people who take off their clothes and run around naked?’

Sorry–Janet Browne and Darwin. Over winter break The Power of Place took a temporary back seat. Not the right metaphor is it?! I left Darwin having just gone through a whirlwind love affair with orchids and published a treatise on same. I will eventually copy out that page… I knew as I read it that I was searching for that feeling/ that activity/ that passion myself. “I want to feel like THAT,” I said wiping away little tears.

Tomato plants and a cicada

As of yesterday, the most interesting things going were the tiny yellow blooms on my six tomato plants, and the carcass of what I think is a cicada: a full three inches long, brown like the average roach, 6 legs, jointed curved antennae. Apparently he or she plopped out of the sky like a tiny jet fighter shot down behind enemy lines. Crash-landed and died. Haven’t researched it yet. But I have been successful finding information about tomatoes.

Tomatoes first grew and were cultivated in the Andes in the alpine regions where Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia come together. In what anthropologists describe as “relatively recent times”–~2000 years ago–humans carried them north spreading them around Central America and Mexico. When the Europeans began poking around “the New World,” they took samples home with them. By the end of the Italian Renaissance (~1500), the Italians had begun to grow and eat them. The Germans, French, British etc. still thought they were suspicious. Early plant fanatics grew them as curiosities, but the average farmer or layperson still believed they were poisonous. It would be another couple hundred years before Anglo-Saxon types overcame their prejudices and started serving slices of the juicy yellow or red fruit in toasted cheese sandwiches.

In North America, the tomato found even rougher going. To veer back into anthropological times for a moment, the tomato seems not to have ever made any inroads with the indigenous sorts in the northern hemisphere: too short a shelf life to fuss with, probably. As fate would have it, the tomato had to make an assault on the colonies via Europe–taking the long way around. Thomas Jefferson, who was a notorious yeomen farmer and plant buff , is reported to have grown and eaten them in the 1780s. Places like New Orleans, with its French and Spanish influence embraced them a few decades earlier.

Baby tomatoes -- my first!

Baby tomatoes -- my first!

Now, of course, they are a booming business. [Would be interesting to have some facts and figures to relate, but I don’t.] Well, booming until a few weeks ago with that Salmonella scare. (Gloria keeps squinting and saying, how do you get the Salmonella into the tomato?!)

(Okay, okay… I confess. I love to hear myself tell stories and sound all–like Wow–and everything. But what I posted above was all taken from one article (the 1949 National Geographic piece on Traveling Vegetables). I suspect that anthropologists (Paleobotanists?) have probably had things to say since then. And I didn’t Fact Check, even based on my initial reading.)


History of Gardening compiled by Michael Garafalo.

Lots of his links are broken. But this one wasn’t

Hmm. Neolithic period. 10-20,000 years ago–

UNM library? The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention by Robert Temple and Joseph Needham.

Garafalo linked to a site [ ] that had these along the sidebar:

A new spring begins
the same old wealth–about
two quarts of rice

Oh bush warblers!
Now you’ve shit all over
my rice cake on the porch

–Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), from Haiku

Pausing to reflect a moment…

Natural History/ History of Botany/ History of Science:
Yesterday I looked at the German history of Botany site – I’m still chewing on his terse, simplistic [dismissive?] treatment of the Middle Ages:

5 Plant Zones
Had coffee with Carolyn Dodson yesterday. (Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing Their Natural History. Carolyn Dodson and Willian W. Dunmire.  University of New Mexico Press.  November 2007.) She brought me the western USA map of plant provinces, apropos of an earlier conversation we had about how fabulous it is to be a botanist in this area–at a point where 5 provinces meet. [Dot laughs: 6 Flags Over Georgia. Places where geopolitical boundaries intersect. Northwest Georgia. I said, I think there is a second place where that also happens. ]

Recent Reading
Night before last, I read the introductory chapter in Sandra Knapp’s sprawling, delectable coffee table book: Plant Discoveries. Go back — re-read & take some notes. Have been carrying around E. O. Wilson’s In Search of Nature in hopes of taking notes on Sharks and Ants.

Finish reading the reams of material on Barn Swallows from the Cornell site. (How long do they live? Do parents improve & hone their skills over a couple of years? Do they come back to the same nest, or to the same general area?)

Science Went into Decline
Like the intellectual equivalent of a re-encroaching ice age. Is that really possible? Or did the prevalence of oral culture mean we’ve just lost track of what they knew?
Gloria: When I said I was frustrated with the short treatment of the “Dark Ages” by the German history of Botany site, said… so what was the tipping point from “The Dark Ages” to the Renaissance? This vexed me, since I took so much European history in college (1978, 78, 80…) I fumbled around: increasing trade, Italy, the rise of the city state [the rise of the middle class, the Crusades, the Arabs & Constantinople, the zero, movable type, the Protestant Reformation ?!] We got out James Burke’s Connections. And read about water clocks, monks, the midnight bells and sundials not working so well in cloudy northern Europe. But while that was all great stuff, it didn’t answer the question. Google: Richard Hooker’s Backgrounds to the Italian Renaissance.

Also his page on Humanism. Was quite interested in his NeoPlatonism, but the printer died so I didn’t get that one.

Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria Sibylla MerianHoly smokes. For reasons I can’t really explain, I wanted to see if the engraving of her from Amazing Rare Things was floating around anywhere. In that image, she is disconcerting. Very homely. (Right… of all the things to pursue.)

Google comes through!
Well duh. She’s in Wikipedia, with a much more flattering image.
And there is a page dedicated to her somewhere else.

Natural History Exhibit Chronological Tour.

(Holy smokes!) She’s there. (Posted in 2000. Along with Hooke, Linneaus, [Merian] Catesby Trembley Curtis Humboldt Bonaparte Audubon & Gould.)

Ah. “Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral: Natural History Books by Ten Authors.” Special Collections/ Sheridan Libraries at The Johns Hopkins University (March-July 2000)

Overview of the exhibit:


The ten authors, whose works are shown in this exhibit, were intensely curious about the natural world, and determined to communicate their observations. Their books are among the treasures of the natural history collections in the Sheridan Libraries and are on display at the George Peabody Library from March through July 20, 2000.

With intellectual curiosity and purpose in common, the ten naturalists were very different in their interests, backgrounds and styles of working. Robert Hooke (1655-1703 ) was a restless researcher who moved from one project to another. The striking illustrations in his Micrographia of magnified leaves, stones, and insects came from his study of the microscope. Abraham Trembley (1710-1784) became aware of hydra almost by accident, then concentrated on studying them as thoroughly as possible, planning every step in his groundbreaking work. Linneaus (1707-1778 ) had the same need for organization but applied it to creating a classification system of all three kingdoms of nature.

Illustration by Curtis.Trembley, Hooke and the horticulturist William Curtis (1746-1799) made their careers close to home, studying things which others did not notice, or considered ordinary, while Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), Mark Catesby (1679?-1749), and especially Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) traveled to study plants and animals and geology unknown in Europe. Humboldt’s six-year journey in Central and South America has been called the “scientific discovery of America.” (The plant – left – is by Curtis)

John Gould (1804-1881), the son of a gardener at Windsor Castle, was a taxidermist for the Zoological Society of London while teaching himself to be an ornithologist. Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803-1857), Napoleon’s nephew, had a university education before becoming an outstanding zoologist. He depended on professional artists to illustrate his books, like all the naturalists except Merian, Catesby and Audubon (1785-1851), who were artists in their own right.

The illustrations are engravings, most colored by hand, in the earliest books and lithographs in those by Audubon and Gould. To protect them from the light levels in the Peabody Library, the pages of exhibited volumes were turned periodically through the duration of the original library exhibit. This on-line exhibit features all of the exhibited pages, as well as some detail images and images not shown in the original library exhibit.

Robert Hooke (1635-1703), inventor and wide-ranging researcher, was curator of experiments of the Royal Society, professor of geometry at Gresham College, and Surveyor of the City of London after the Fire of 1666. He is best known for his accomplishments in physics and mechanics, but his Micrographia is important for its observations through a microscope of stones, plants including fungi, and insects, and its striking illustrations.

Carl von Linné, or Linnaeus, ( 1707-1778 ) classified the three kingdoms of nature as they were known in his time. He developed “binomial nomenclature,” or identification by genus and species, which is still in use, although much of his classification system has been modified by discoveries since his lifetime.
The Museum for his patron, the King, is a selected list of quadrupeds, reptiles and fish with their Linnean names, preceded by an essay in Latin and Swedish on the study of natural history, and illustrated with engravings.

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) learned to paint from her stepfather, the still life artist Jacob Marrel. She was interested in flowers and insects from an early age, and published books of her paintings, showing insects in different stages of their development, with the plants that attracted them. When living in Amsterdam she saw a collection of South American natural history specimens, and was so much interested that she traveled to Surinam with one of her daughters to study the native flowers and insects on the spot. After two years she returned and published her major work Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensis, in 1705. In the book, the insects are not usually identified with as much detail as the plants.

Mark Catesby (1679-1749) made two lengthy journeys to America, from 1710-1719 and 1722 to 1726. The “Florida” of the title included what is now Georgia. He collected natural history specimens and made drawings and watercolors of plants, reptiles, animals and fish, then engraved his own pictures and published them for the first time in 1731. The work was successful and there was a second volume in 1743, followed by a second and third edition of both volumes. The third edition is shown here.

Abraham Trembley (1710-1784) tutor of Count Bentinck’s two sons at Sorgvliet near the Hague, noticed a hydra attached to an aquatic plant, and found that it was an animal capable of independent motion. Further observation and experiment proved that the hydra could be multiplied by dividing it in pieces. A thorough researcher, Trembley studied three species of hydra and published his findings in 1744. The illustrations shown are from a 1791 German translation, as well as the original 1744 edition.

William Curtis (1746-1799) was from a Quaker family much interested in medicine. He was apprenticed to an apothecary who left him his business, but he sold it to concentrate on his real interest, the study of natural history, and became well known as a horticulturist. Curtis had a subscription garden near London, where for a guinea a year the members had access to the plants and the library. He published the first edition of the Flora Londiniensis in parts from 1775-1798, but it was not a financial success. It was large, costly, and the plants illustrated, which grew wild around London, were considered by many to be not much better than weeds.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) began his career in the Prussian Department of Mines, but hoped to be a scientific explorer. He succeeded in gaining permission to visit the Spanish territories in Central and South America, then practically unknown in Europe. From 1799 he and the French botanist Aimé Bonpland traveled from Venezuela to Mexico, making discoveries in botany, zoology and geology and original observations of the geography, demographics and politics of the region. Humboldt published the results of the journey in Paris over a period of 29 years. Humboldt’s is the monkey.

Charles Lucien Bonapart (1803-1857), nephew of Napoleon, had an outstanding career as a zoologist. He was in the United State from 1822 to 1828, where he wrote four additional volumes for the ornithological work which Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) had left unfinished at his death. Bonaparte had the help of the artist Titian Peale, who found and painted birds for him in the Rocky Mountains and in Florida.

Image left: from American Ornithology, or, The Natural History of Birds Inhabiting in the United States, not given by Wilson … Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1825-33.

John Gould (1804-1881) was a largely self-taught ornithologist who began as a taxidermist for the Royal Zoological Society. His first book, on Himalayan birds, was based on skins shipped to London, but later in his career he traveled to see birds in their natural habitats. He was his own publisher from the first, and the 41 volumes of his works contain 3000 beautiful lithographs as well as exact scientific commentary, and were a financial success. Gould was not an artist, and employed professionals to rework his sketches. (Swallows below by Gould) From Birds of Asia. 1852-1883.


Handasyde Buchanan. Nature into Art: a Treasury of Great Natural History Books. New York: Mayflower Books, 1979.

Natalie Zemon Davis. Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography . Charles Coulston Gillispie, editor-in-chief. New York: Scribner [1970-1990].

Sylvia G. Lenhoff. Hydra and the Birth of Experimental Biology, 1744: Abraham Trembley’s Memoires Concerning Polyps. Pacific Grove, CA: Boxwood Press, 1986.

Gordon C. Sauer. John Gould, the Bird Man: a Chronology and Bibliography. [S.l.]: University Press of Kansas, 1982.

Shirley Streshinsky. Audubon: Life and Art in the American Wilderness Athens, GA:: University of Georgia Press, 1999.

Michael Sidney Tyler-Whittle. Curtis’s Flower Garden Displayed … Oxford; New york: Oxford University Press, 1981, c1979.

Carolyn Smith is Librarian of the George Peabody Library and Collection Development Librarian for Special Collections in the Sheridan Libraries.

National Museum of Women in the Arts – she’s there.

Barn Swallows

Not in my yard. Sadly, this is cheating in the sense that it doesn’t have any place in my Back Yard project. But there are 6 or 7 nests in my “weekday” yard (a nearby building on the UNM campus.)

There are swallows nesting under the eaves of a huge cement building. I’ve been watching them casually. Hirundo rustica. I wanted to know:
*Do they mate for life?
*How long they live?
*Do they migrate (if so where, and for how long)?
*And do they tend to return to the same nest?

Cornell’s All About Birds says:

  • they weigh about 6 ounces.
  • they are 6-7″ in size.
  • the sexes look similar: males are darker chestnut underneath and have longer tail streamers. (apparently the girls like boys with long symmetrical tails & darker red chests)
  • “Tail length appears to be reliable signal of individual quality in both males and females.” A good indicator of all around health & well-being. wow.
  • originally a cave breeder, they are now almost exclusively urban dwellers.
  • they winter throughout South America
  • require mud for nest-building
  • eat insects caught while flying, mostly low to the ground
  • 3-7 eggs: creamy white with small dark spots
  • When the weather is really cold, they huddle in bunches, sometimes with other kinds of swallows.
  • They tend to be monogamous, though at times males will take a second wife (while devoting most of his parental attention to offspring by his first mate).
  • They sunbathe. (no kidding!)
  • And they are one of the most thoroughly researched birds in the western hemisphere. Their range is everywhere EXCEPT Florida and a tiny snip of southern California. (So that is why they are not familiar to me).
  • [Birds of NA- Breeding] No systematic differences in compass directions in which nests are oriented.
  • [ditto] Both sexes nest build, but the females are dominant, especially in shaping. If they reuse a nest from the previous year, they check it for parasites, toss out the old feathers, and add new mud. Refurbishing takes ~5 days. Building from scratch ~11. And they tend to remodel between broods in the summer (some new mud and new feathers) “if it is reused within a season.” Oh… and they do steal nest-lining materials when they can get away with it. Evidence is really mixed about the extent to which they return to the same nest year after year, since they sometimes choose a different nest between clutches in a single summer.

They migrate in early spring. Spend a couple of weeks dating if they aren’t already paired up. Then spend a week or so honeymooning and building up their strength, then select a nest or nest site and start building or refurbishing a nest. That takes a week or two. Then they generally have a couple of days of quiet after they have finished the babys’ room before laying eggs. The female lays one egg per day, often in early morning. 3-7 total. Even within colonies, this appears to be asynchronous.

They start incubating after the last egg, or if there are going to be tons– after number 5. Both male and female help out, though the female does the lion’s share. They can leave the nest more the warmer it is… And if they have tons of feathers to insulate the nest, they have to spend less time on it. “Nest attentiveness” . They roll the eggs with their bills at the start of an incubation bout. Females spend the night on the nest. And have to get their own food the whole time.

Eggs hatch in roughly 24-hours. Naked at birth, eyes closed. Takes ~19 days to fledge. Their eyes open gradually days 5-8, and they start growing feathers at days 4-8. They really aren’t homeothermic until ~ day 10.

Nestlings begin flapping wings by day 9, begin preening by days 12–15 by drawing open bill along feather-shafts to remove pieces of white feather-sheaths, and stand on nest rim by day 14 (Smith 1933, Wood 1937, Tabler 1956). Starts to show fear response by day 9, retreating from nest rim and hunkering down at alarm call of adult (Smith 1933). May fledge prematurely by day 14 if handled (Anthony and Ely 1976).

Evidence suggests that older parents do a better job of feeding their brood than newbies. Babies turn around and poop over the edge after eating, so that seems to give everyone a chance at being fed. ((Females seem to work a bit harder at carrying back the groceries.)) “Female parents lose mass steadily while feeding young (up to 19.3% of body mass); male parents show no consistent pattern (Jones 1987a).”

As with crows, there appear to be some “helping.” Unattached males, young females … with varying motives. Juveniles from the 1st brood often help feed the 2nd.

After 15-24 days they are ready to leave the nest.

Association With Parents Or Other Young

Parents lead young back to nest to sleep for up to several days after fledging. Broods in Washington traveled mean of 0.48 km (n = 11) from nest site, where they usually stayed in same general area for several days, often perching on wires or other exposed perches; broods typically remain segregated from others, and juveniles do not mix between broods until independent (no creches form; Medvin and Beecher 1986). Parents do not recognize their own young (Grzybowski 1979) and thus do not discriminate against conspecific juveniles if any join the brood.  (emphasis mine)

Ability To Get Around, Feed, And Care For Self

Juveniles are fed by their parents for several days, possibly up to a week, after fledging; family groups have broken up entirely by 2 wk after fledging (Smith 1937, Medvin and Beecher 1986). At first juveniles are usually fed while perched, but eventually they begin taking food from their parents in flight, flying to meet incoming adult, and food is transferred in midair.

Not a lot of definitive studies re. how long they live (isn’t that interesting?!)  ~ 8 years?

Parasites:  fleas.  mites. blowflies.  (Mites have a negative impact on reproduction and quality of life.)
Mortality:  Exposure exacts a huge toll.  Cold rainy weather late spring/ early summer.  Extreme heat in the summer. Cold rainy weather on their wintering range.  Drought reducing insect food supplies…
Significant competition with House Sparrows (pushing them out of desirable nesting areas).

Young seldom return to their birthplace.

They are roughly a year old before they start breeding.

Once they are adults, 20-35% return to the same spot (“Fidelity to Breeding Site”).  Out of that group 15-30% reuse the same nest.  So the answer to my question is, not really.  Certainly not religiously.

Home Range

In Pennsylvania, 96 birds were transported 16–96 km from their nests and released; 55% of birds returned to their nests (Nastase 1982). Distance and direction from nest site did not significantly affect homing ability, at least within 100 km. Studies in Europe over longer distances (up to 1,875 km) show that homing ability declines with distance from nest site; birds released up to 153 km away returned the same day, and maximum speed of return was 412 km/d (reviewed in Nastase 1982). Birds in W. Virginia foraged within 1.2 km of nest site (Samuel 1971a); those in Europe generally confine their foraging to radius of 500 m from nest site (Møller 1987a).  They stay pretty close to the nest.

Population Regulation – probably based on weather (cold) more than availability of suitable nesting sites.

Citation for Birds of North America Online:
Brown, Charles R. and Mary Bomberger Brown. 1999. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: (General citation for what’s below)

The Barn Swallow’s close association with human habitations means that it is well known to the public, and in some parts of the world having Barn Swallows nest on one’s property is considered a harbinger of good luck. Legend has it that the Barn Swallow consoled Christ on the cross and got its forked tail because it stole fire from the gods to bring to people, losing its middle tail-feathers when a wrathful deity hurled a firebrand at it (Turner 1991). Another superstition is that cows will give bloody milk or go dry if anything happens to the Barn Swallows nesting on a farm. Barn Swallows have been closely associated with humans and their structures for more than 2,000 years in Europe (Møller 1994a).

As a consequence of both its wide distribution and its nesting on accessible artificial structures near people, the Barn Swallow has been studied extensively throughout the world and especially in Europe. More papers have been published on this species than on any other swallow, and it is one of the most thoroughly studied birds in the world. The Barn Swallow has figured prominently in studies on the costs and benefits of group living (Snapp 1976, Møller 1987a, Shields and Crook 1987), and it has served as a model organism for detailed studies on the mechanisms of sexual selection (Møller 1994a).

“Legend has it” that the Barn Swallow “stole fire from the gods to bring to people, losing its middle tail-feathers when a wrathful deity hurled a firebrand at it (Turner 1991).” They have been nesting in and around human dwellings for nearly 2000 years in Europe, and perhaps partly because of this, they are one of the “most thoroughly studied birds in the world.”

Barn Swallows “—not the more famous egrets—have the distinction of having indirectly led to the founding of the conservation movement in the United States: the destruction of Barn Swallows for the millinery trade apparently prompted George Bird Grinnell’s 1886 editorial in Forest and Stream that led to the founding of the first Audubon Society (G. Gladden in Pearson 1923).”


wow. sunbathing. “perching substrate.” and finding a place to hide and hang on during high winds:

Walking, Hopping, Climbing, Etc

When on ground, walks exclusively. Goes to ground only to collect mud, grass, or feathers for nest, to pick up bits of gravel or (rarely) moribund insects, to sunbathe, or to seek refuge from strong winds. Sidles along a wire, tree branch, or other perching substrate using a sideways walk.


….. Long tails, along with high levels of symmetry in wing and outer tail, may improve foraging efficiency during extreme weather conditions (Brown and Brown 1999). Glides rarely…. (Blake 1948). Carries tail nearly closed, except when turning or braking on landing. Flight speed is not much greater than that of other swallows, but with straighter flight this species covers ground more rapidly (see Blake 1948). Speed estimated at 8.0 m/s ± 2.0 SD (range 5–17), which matches the speed predicted if birds were flying to maximize rate of food delivery to nestlings (de la Cueva and Blake 1997).

Swimming. Only it if falls in somewhere by accident. Flaps like hell until it can climb out. “No diving.” grin.

Self-Maintenance / Preening, Head-Scratching, Stretching, Bathing, Anting, Etc

From Møller 1991e, except as noted. Usually preens at perch sites near nest; preening peaks in early morning and evening and consists of quick movements through feathers, especially of wing and tail, ending with bird’s shaking entire body. Only about 3.1% of preening bouts involve contact with uropygial gland. Total time spent preening varies among individuals (0–14.6%); nestlings preen more when their nests are infested by mites, but there was no such effect for adults. Preening declines during breeding cycle. Scratches head over wing. Stretches by extending one wing at a time below feet; then extends both in a V over back. This stretching sequence often immediately precedes flight. Yawns sometimes accompany stretches. Bathes by skimming water surface and “hitting” surface briefly in violent collision, sometimes several times in succession. In heavy rain, points bill straight up and holds position without moving. Birds in Europe seen dust-bathing in cinders, rolling and flapping wings in same manner as House Sparrows do (Tubbs 1954). Anting not known to occur.

That’s great. Yawning & stretching. “Anting”?! Using the heavy rains to bathe, beak up/ eyes closed?

Sleeping, Roosting, Sunbathing

Pairs often sleep together in nest or on rim, or on adjacent part of structure (e.g., nearby beam), for much of breeding season, but will begin roosting elsewhere by the time young approach fledging (Smith 1937).

Prior to migrating they often gather in huge groups.

They are known to sunbathe. No kidding. Often on hot days, using metal roofing to intensify the heat. We really don’t know why. (Maybe killing parasites.) “may aid in ectoparasite control.”

Daily Time Budget

Little information for North American race. For adult H. r. rustica in Britain dur-ing brood-rearing period, 33.3% of birds’ time was spent roosting, 15.8% resting, and 50.9% flying (foraging; Turner 1983).

Isn’t that great!! Scavenging for food. Sitting on the nest. And resting just a bit.

Pair Bond

Most birds establish pair bonds after arrival on breeding grounds. Pairs form anew each season, but members of a pair often remain together for 2 consecutive seasons if successful the first season (Shields 1984b).

While she is fertile, her mate may guard her by following her around (to prevent another unattached male from mating with her).

During migration and winter, they roost in huge flocks, separating during the day to forage. Helps them defend themselves against predators.

Interestingly though, parents do not appear to recognize their young. Brids do not appear to choose colony life, but tolerate each other because the most suitable nesting sites force them into it. [Hmm. As with humans? There may be a net reproductive cost to living in colonies. Some mixed evidence on this.]:

In H. r. rustica in Denmark, costs of coloniality were more obvious than benefits: birds nesting in larger colonies found less food, experienced more extra-pair copulations, more ectoparasitism, more predation, more infanticide, and more brood parasitism, and spent more time guarding their mates and nests (Møller 1987a).

Nonpredatory Interspecific Interactions

Eastern (Sayornis phoebe) and Say’s (S. saya) phoebes, Cliff and Cave swallows, House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon), House Sparrows, and Myotis bats usurp Barn Swallow nests, sometimes destroying eggs in the process; Cliff Swallows create dome over nest with mud to make characteristic jug shape, and sparrows fill interior with grass. Cliff Swallows (and probably Cave Swallows) are dominant over Barn Swallows in nest-site interactions, and in mixed colonies Barn Swallows often occupy only the darkest interiors of culverts, which Cliff Swallows seem to like least (Brown and Brown 1996). House Sparrows destroy Barn Swallow eggs and nestlings in nest takeovers and steal nesting material from Barn Swallows (Weisheit and Creighton 1989). Pair of Barn Swallows and pair of Say’s Phoebes occupied same nest in New Mexico; both species laid eggs, incubated, fed each other’s nestlings, and eventually fledged young (Kozma and Mathews 1995). Each exhibited aggression toward each other upon encounters at nest. Birds occasionally build nests adjacent to wasp nests (see Breeding: nest site, below), but they do not seem to interact obviously with the wasps (Jackson and Burchfield 1975).

Nest thieves–ack! And it sounds like the barn swallows are at the bottom of the Swallow pecking order. (You guys can have the dark corners, the spots we don’t like…) May nest near wasps, but both creatures leave the other alone. How interesting!


Eek. Grackles chase adults in mid-air, or sometimes attack them on the ground when they think they can get them.

They are most assertive when defending nestlings. (They mob together in small clumps: 1-19) Parents take the high risk dives.

Heavens. There is an entire (long) page on Breeding. They tend to arrive the end of May. Over the course of roughly a month, they choose a partner, honeymoon, nest-build, watch videos, do a little jogging, some shopping, & initiate a clutch. “First Brood Per Season”. Late July, early August, “Second Brood Per Season.” Both help nest build, with the females ‘taking a more active role.’ New nests take 1-2 wks to construct, depending on weather, etc.

Reusing nests takes about half that long. They throw out old feathers and some of the old mud & add new. Wow. Someone counted: nests may contain 750-1400. mud pellets!!

OK. I’m stopping to go home. I was just really getting started on the Breeding article: