Don’t try this at home. Suspended upside down, this cliff swallow latches onto its superbly engineered nest before entering the small opening by doing a pull-up with its legs!

Cliff swallow wings WM

Cliff swallows build elaborate, gourd shaped nests with downward facing entrances to shield their young against predators and the elements. Historically they would build these nests on cliffs, but with so many bridges and houses providing perfect 90 degree angles, they are now found in many towns and cities. Each nest typically requires between 900-1400 round trips to bring back enough mud pellets to complete their designs.

Cliff swallow mothstache WM

These colony nesters are considered by some to be pests due to the noise and mess they can produce. However, they more than make up for these slight annoyances by keeping the local insect populations in check. Each swallow can consume between 800-1000 mosquitoes per day, which not only keeps the pesky insects from biting us, but it also limits the transmission of West Nile virus and other mosquito transmitted, blood borne pathogens. Two very good reasons to find ways to co-exist with these birds and other insectivorous species.

I took these photos during the summer. By now these birds will have made it down to their wintering grounds in South America, not unlike many Canadians during this time of year.

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