April 2016 Bird Photo of the Month

Tree Swallows acting together © Ellie Van Os
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Unlike other swallows, Tree Swallows nest in trees, not banks, cliffs, caves, or barns, the locations where other swallows nest and get their names. When young are raised and insects decline in their nesting grounds, Swallows stay longer, eating wax-coated Myrtle berries which provide fuel for their high-energy migration. Gathering across Northern U.S. and Canada, by December vast numbers reach Florida, streaming high overhead, searching for Wax Myrtle thickets. Ellie Van Os, with Canon, 100-400mm photographed this flock with iridescent blue backs and white bellies.

Tree Swallow by Ellie Van Os

After sunset, swallows gather from all directions, in gigantic flocks. The spectacular, rarely seen phenomenon is called murmuration, seemingly choreographed and at high-speed. Undulating pattern of waves of swallows fly in tandem, twisting and turning filling the sky. Thousands circle an isolated roost site, even visible on NASA’s radar. An hour after dusk, as if on cue, thousands begin funneling into one roost on an isolated wetlands or island. During the day they disperse, smaller flocks dart after insects with acrobatic flying or together covering trees to feed or rest.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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