In villages and even in the city, people often observe small birds. The swallow constantly flies over houses, lawns, sports grounds. It is quite easy to recognize these birds. They have a characteristic forked tail and very long, built-up wings. The lifestyle of such swift-winged birds is closely related to humans.
Origin of the species and description
The swallow is a small bird belonging to the family of the same name. It belongs to the order of sparrows. Initially, such birds lived high in the mountains, but over time they adapted to life near humans. Swallows live in villages and easily adapt to difficult urban conditions. According to their habitat, they were divided into several species.
Only two are most known:
The first type is very common in countries with a temperate climate. These white-breasted birds build their nests, easily get food and breed among multi-storey buildings. Village killer whales live closer to people. Often they build their nests in the attics of residential buildings, sheds, cowsheds. At the same time, they are not at all embarrassed by such close proximity to people. City and village swallows differ from each other not only in their habitat, but also in their appearance. The village birds have a pale beige underside, the city ones have white plumage below and a white uppertail.
If we talk about the description of a bird, then one cannot fail to note its unique abilities for fast flights. Swallows move through the air very quickly. In this they are helped by a special natural structure of the body. They have a long tail, a small streamlined body, narrow and strong wings. It is also easy to recognize this bird by its characteristic plumage. It has a dark blue torso that gleams nicely in the sun.
Interesting fact: Swallows spend most of their lives in the air. They are very rarely seen on the ground. In the air, these birds learned not only to get their own food, but also to sleep, mate for procreation.
Appearance and features
It is difficult to confuse a swallow with which some other bird. It is small, moves quickly through the air, has a physique characteristic of all swallows. The body of these birds is slightly elongated, streamlined. The tail is divided into two narrow parts by a cutout, the wings are long and narrow. The head of the animal is slightly flattened, and the beak is very short.
Swallows are very small, no larger than the average sparrow. The body length is usually about seventeen centimeters. The wingspan is from twenty to thirty-three centimeters. Weight is also tiny – only eighteen grams. The color of feathers in different species of the family may vary slightly. From above, these birds are the same – blue-black with a metallic sheen. The bottom is different. City swallows are pure white below, country swallows are beige.
Interesting fact: The flight of the swallow is agile, fast. The village view is characterized by a more rapid flight. On average, such birds make about five flaps of wings in one second.
In village killer whales, small brown spots may be present on the neck and forehead. The legs of all swallows are covered with down. There are no differences in the appearance of females and males. Only juveniles and adults differ from each other. In the former, the color of the feathers is duller – grayish-black.
Adults and young birds molt once a year. Swallows have a protracted molting period. It lasts from August to March. The plumage changes gradually: first small, then large. Swallows are small and very sociable birds. But their voice is inexpressive, weak.
Where does the swallow live?
Swift-winged swallows live in the following territories:
- Northern Europe. The exceptions are Scandinavia, the Kola Peninsula;
- North, South America. In the North, these birds live and breed, in the South they winter;
- Africa. Mostly nest in the north of the continent;
- Middle East, China, Japan.
Swallows are easily mastered in different territories, they can get used to almost any conditions. The exception is too low temperatures. The main conditions put forward by these birds to the habitat are the availability of food, water and a suitable place to build a nest. Swallows live both in modern cities and villages, and in wild conditions – in rocky caves.
They build their nests in agricultural buildings: barns, outbuildings, under the overhanging part of the rock, buildings, bridges. Sometimes the nest can be found even in slow moving trains. In the wild, such animals settle in light caves, crevices. The nesting height does not exceed three thousand meters above sea level. It is extremely rare for swallows to occupy the nests of other birds.
Interesting fact: Little swallows spend almost their entire lives in flight. Twice a year they make long flights, moving from permanent habitats to warmer climes for wintering. These animals winter in the southern regions. They are able to travel great distances. Previously, even scientists found it hard to believe this, and until a certain time it was believed that swallows hibernate in winter.
What does a swallow eat?
To carry out long flights, fly quickly and breed, swallows need protein in large quantities. The little swallow eats a lot, and she can feed her chicks about three hundred times a day!
The main diet of these birds is various insects:
- small bugs and flies;
- mosquitoes, midges, horseflies;
- various types of butterflies;
- grasshoppers and spiders.
Birds try to avoid poisonous insects. For example, they do not touch wasps and bees. From the sting and poison of such insects, swallows can be seriously affected. Birds swallow other insects whole. They are not embarrassed even by the very hard cover of some beetles. Such a cover is easily digested by the well-developed digestive system of the swallow.
A feature of the feeding process of swallows is their way of obtaining food. These birds almost never land on the ground for food. The whole process of hunting and feeding is carried out in the air. They catch small and medium insects right on the fly. In the same way, the bird takes care of its offspring – it feeds the chicks right in the air.
Interesting fact: Most of the swallow family hunt at low altitude. It is there that they find many delicacies in the form of various insects. People, noticing low-flying swallows, linked this to weather forecasting. However, this behavior of birds has nothing to do with rain.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Swallows can lead both a sedentary and nomadic lifestyle. If the birds live in areas with a warm climate, then they do not fly anywhere for the winter, they lead a sedentary lifestyle. In another case, swallows are forced to make long flights for wintering in more acceptable conditions. The migration process is a rather difficult stage for a small bird. Swallows are forced to fly twice in one year.
The lifestyle of these animals is quite active. They rarely rest, they are constantly in search of food for themselves and their offspring – and all this is in the air. For this reason, swallows have poorly developed, weak, short limbs. Their paws are not adapted for walking on the ground. They rarely sink so low and walk on the ground. The only exception can be the process of collecting material for building nests.
Swallows can fly both very low and high. They are very fast. In this regard, they are second only to swifts, with which people often confuse them. Swallows can reach speeds of up to one hundred and twenty kilometers per hour in flight. The nature of these birds is not warlike, rather peaceful. For example, even if a stranger settles in their nest, the swallow will not attack, but will simply curl around the house restlessly. If that doesn’t scare off the intruder, she’ll just start making a new nest nearby.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Swallows are monogamous birds. If they create a couple, then this is for a long time. Cases of polygamy are quite rare in this family. The formation of pairs begins with the arrival of the first heat – at the beginning of spring. At this time, the males spread their tails, chirp loudly to attract the attention of the female they like.
Having found a suitable partner, the birds begin to mate. During the season, each female manages to hatch two broods of chicks. The female lays no more than seven eggs at a time. Most often four or five. Further, the parent swallows incubate the eggs for about sixteen days. They do this in turn. The chicks are born very tiny. Their size rarely reaches even four centimeters.
Chicks are born absolutely helpless, at first they completely lack plumage. In the first weeks, all worries about the offspring fall entirely on the newly-made parents. Together they feed the crumbs for three weeks. For several days, the birds are engaged in training the young. They teach them to catch insects, to fly. Then the offspring leave the parental nest and join the rest of the swallows.
The life of swift-winged swallows is not so long, on average, four years. However, there are exceptions in nature. Some individuals live up to eight years. Females can give offspring within a year after birth. The first brood is usually not numerous, the second and all subsequent ones are much larger.
Natural enemies of swallows
The swallow is a small, defenseless bird. But she is unlikely to be easy prey. She has few natural enemies due to the fact that the swallow can develop tremendous speed. Just can’t keep up with her. It is due to their flying qualities that swallows almost never fall prey to mammalian predators. An exception would be when a bird falls to the ground due to a wing injury.
Interesting fact: Swallows are migratory birds. More often they die not because of the attack of enemies, but because of the difficulties that arise in the process of long journeys. So, during the flight, due to bad weather conditions, a whole flock can die.
Hobby falcon often hunts city swallows. This is the most dangerous enemy of small birds. He is just as fast, easily catching his prey right in the air. Sometimes the falcon waits for birds not far from the reservoir. Swallows are very vulnerable when gathering material to build their own nest.
Also, various parasites and endoparasites can be called enemies of swallows. Their body and body are harmed by ticks, fleas, malaria. For this species of birds there is even a separate characteristic flea. It is called Ceratophyllus hirundinis. Birds can get malaria from mosquitoes.
Population and species status
To date, there are more than seventy species of swallowtails. According to the most conservative estimates of experts, about forty-eight million individuals live in Europe alone. Globally, it is impossible to determine the population of swallows. These are migratory, small birds. However, it is known for sure that the population of these animals is subject to some fluctuations.
Due to the large number of swallows, their conservation status is designated LC. This means that this species of birds is not threatened with extinction, the risk of a significant decrease in the population is minimal. However, in some countries there is a slight decrease in the population of these birds. So, such problems exist in the UK. For this reason, the British authorities have increased control over the swallows and slightly increased their conservation status.
The fluctuations in the number of swallows can be both positive and negative. The population is increasing due to the construction of new buildings, control of air pollution by the government of many countries where birds live. Several main factors lead to a decrease in the number of birds: rivalry with other bird species, the use of harmful pesticides by people, a cold climate, a lack of “building” material for building nests.
The swallow is a very friendly, peaceful bird with beautiful plumage and pleasant melodic voice. She peacefully cohabits close to people, is very fast and can easily overcome record distances. Swallows are common in regions with a temperate climate, the risk of a decline in their population in the very near future is minimal.