Swallows are those little birds we see with their distinctive back swept, pointed wings and their forked “swallow tail”. They maneuver through the sky at high speed, in a seemingly erratic pattern, catching and eating insects in flight. They will also eat mollusks, spiders and sometimes fruit.
In the spring, along the American River, in the Sacramento area, I commonly see two types of swallows: Tree Swallows and Cliff Swallows. When I am lucky, I’ll see a Bank Swallow. I have been told we also have Violet-green Swallows but I haven’t seen any.
The most common swallow that I see is the Tree Swallow. They are called Tree Swallows because the nest in cavities in trees. It is a beautiful iridescent blue on its head and back, white on its breast and underside and blackish color on wings and tail. These birds live along the gulf coast, southern Mexico and Central America in the winter and move north throughout the US in summer.
The Cliff Swallow is a multi-colored bird with off-white underside, gray-brown wings, blue-gray back and head cap and a brown-red neck. They are quire beautiful. They make nests of mud that appear precariously perched on a cliff face. They also build nest in man-made structures like bridges and buildings. They are very social; many birds build nests near one another and hunt together. They also live along the gulf coast, southern Mexico and Central America in the winter and move north throughout the US in summer.
The bank swallow is a bird with different names in different parts of the world. In Europe, it is the Sand Martin while on the Indian subcontinent it is called the collard sand martin. They make a nest, lined with straw or feathers, in a hole they burrow into sand or gravel. They have mostly white underparts but have a gray back, wings and head. They will sometimes have a prominent grey collar at the base of their neck. They winter across they southern 1/3 of the US in winter then migrate north in the summer.
Here are some images of these beautiful swallows.
Please click on caption to see these images in higher resolution.