* Plumage shiny blue-green and black above, white below.
* The tree swallow glides in circles, ending each glide with 3 to 4 flaps
and a short ascent upward.
* Body and tail length: 5-6".
* Habitat: Open areas near water, marshes, meadows, lakes, streams. Roosts
in reeds, builds nests in holes in trees, in snags, and in bird houses.
* Range: Northern, eastern, and central United States and Canada.
* Voice: A liquid-like twitter, cheet, chi-veet, weet, trit,
or weet, with variations.
* Behavior: Feeds on insects, bayberries, Virginia
creeper, and blueberries.
* Tree swallows are incredibly useful in insect-infested areas - they
feed extensively on mosquitoes and other biting bugs.
* Why are swallows, and most birds for that matter, dark above
and white or light-colored below? The coloration is thought to
be a camouflage-like defense against predators - birds of prey,
like hawks, who fly higher than swallows, cannot easily distinguish
the deep blue green feathers from the vegetation below. And predators
who sight swallows from below see only white, which easily blends
in with the sky.
* Angela Barrett wrote a captivating short story about women
and science, using as a plot device the migration of swallows.
Swallows mysteriously appear overnight in spring, but no one
knew where they came from until the middle of the last century.
Some speculated that they overwintered underwater. What would
you have done to solve this mystery? --- is in a collection of
short stories entitled "Ship Fever."
* "The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies."
-John Keats, 1795-1821