Daily Archives: June 23, 2013

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Family:  Hirundinidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  5-6 1/4″ (13-16 cm) ADULT Has blackish upperparts, but in good light note the blue-green sheen on the cap, back, rump, and wing coverts. Dark elements of plumage on head form a complete and discrete cap that extends below the eye. Underparts, including throat, are white. First-year females have browner upperparts, reduced sheen (or none at all) and white tips to tertials. JUVENILE Similar to dull adult (i.e. upperparts are brownish and no sheen is visible); often shows a faint gray-brown breast band.

Voice:  Call and song comprise a series of whistling chirps.

Habitat:  Common summer visitor (present mainly Apr-Sep) to a range of open habitats. Often feeds over water, where flying insects are typically abundant, and often nests in the vicinity of marshes and lakes. Winters across southern U.S. and Central America.

Nesting:  The female does most of the nest building, taking between a few days and two weeks to finish the job. She collects material on the ground near the water’s edge, usually within 100 feet of the nest site. The nest is often made entirely of grass, but may include pine needles, mosses, rootlets, aquatic plants, animal hair, and artificial materials like cellophane or cigarette filters. Within the cavity, the female presses her body against the nest material to shape it into a cup, about 2–3 inches across and 1–2 inches deep, and lines it with many feathers of other bird species. In some populations the male gathers most of the feathers, and in others the male and females split the duty evenly.    Tree Swallows nest in natural cavities of standing dead trees, old woodpecker cavities, or nest boxes. On occasion they nest in hollow stumps, building eaves, Wood Duck nest boxes, holes in the ground, old Cliff Swallow burrows, or other unconventional sites.




  • Migrating and wintering Tree Swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset and form a dense cloud above a roost site (such as a cattail marsh or grove of small trees), swirling around like a living tornado. With each pass, more birds drop down until they are all settled on the roost.
  • Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.
  • The Tree Swallow—which is most often seen in open, treeless areas—gets its name from its habit of nesting in tree cavities. They also take readily to nest boxes.
  • Tree Swallows have helped researchers make major advances in several branches of ecology, and they are among the best-studied bird species in North America. Still, we know little about their lives during migration and winter.
  • The oldest Tree Swallow on record was at least 12 years, 1 month old when it was captured and released by an Ontario bird bander in 1998.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com