Friday, August 27, 2010

Swallows in Flight

This morning, I walked out of the house and found a small group of swallows over the yard. This time of year, swallows often group up before migrating south. On sunny August days with a N or NW wind, these groups often take to the sky. I was able to pick out four swallow species in the flock over my house.

In this area, Tree Swallows become very numerous in late August into September and
often dominate swallow flocks. Tree Swallows seem to have fairly broad
wings and a completely white underside.

Barn Swallows are also quite common this time of year. Compared to Tree Swallows,
Swallows have skinny, pointed wings. Also, Barn Swallows have a buffy-yellow
underside, a red throat, and a distinctive forked tail.

Bank Swallows are an exciting species to find. During the breeding season, this species
is difficult to find away from sandy areas near water courses. Even during migration,
they often stay close to or over water, so this was a treat to see. Bank Swallows
have wings more like a Tree Swallow than a Barn. The underside is mostly
white expect for a broad brown band across the chest.

The most exciting swallow I found was this Cliff Swallow. These guys are neat birds and
are less common than the three other swallows mentioned. To identify these guys, look
for a swallow with a white belly, but a red throat patch. Above, this species has a large,
buff-colored patch on the rump, which is distinctive and easy to see, even from a distance.

Along with the swallows were a few Chimney Swifts. Swifts resemble swallows, but
they flap much quicker, have skinnier wings, and are completely dark. Due to the
color and shape of Chimney Swifts, they have been nicknamed "Flying Cigars"

Enjoy the beautiful weather and go watch some migrating birds!

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