Kathleen Mack, Texas Master Naturalist, Indian Trail Chapter
Barn Swallows like to share space with humans. When my husband and I moved to Midlothian we chose a house in the country because I wanted to be close to nature. Part of the nature which came with the house was Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica). We already had a nest on the back patio. It was January when we moved in, so our “renters” did not show up until spring. I soon learned that these birds thought they had squatter’s rights.
So, began my journey with Barn Swallows. Interestingly, the birds nesting on the back porch were a group of three, two males and a female. They all took turns feeding the young and protecting them. After a few cookouts, they learned to tolerate our use of the patio, and quit buzzing us. We settled into a peaceful co-existence and each spring I eagerly awaited their return. For three years I watched while the trio reared the young. Then one fateful evening, one of the males became disoriented as I was going into the house and flew toward the open door. Unfortunately, I shut the door on him. Needless to say I was heartbroken. The other two left shortly thereafter, and I worried all winter about them, but come spring they were back raising their young.
The swallows on the patio proved to be good tenants. The daddy took to sitting on the back of one of the chairs, and seldom made any mess. He would actually perch there when I was on the patio and tell me about his day. Last year they built their nest so high the last group of babies suffocated. I had to remove it after they left in the fall.
Come spring mama bird carefully built a new nest, while daddy swallow supervised the entire endeavor and often told mama how it should be done. They produced four offspring the first go around without incident, but the second four proved a bit more problematic. I watched carefully when the babies were ready to leave the nest and noticed one day that a baby was out of the nest but not going anywhere. Mom and Dad were very upset. When I went out to investigate, the bird just stayed put. It did not seem to be hurt, just scared, so I caught him and put him back in the nest. When I did that another of the fledglings took off. I worried that I had upset the natural order of things, but when I checked on them that evening, all four babies were in the nest, with mom and pop close by.
I have had endless hours of pleasure watching these birds and, as an extra benefit, I can sit on my patio and never get bitten by mosquitoes. Swallows eat their weight in insects each day, and with all those babies, the mosquitoes don’t stand a chance. So, I am more than happy to share my home with these marvelous birds.
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program every the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy, Red Oak, TX. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.