More Mysteries of the Swallows

swallow nest with horsehair streamers

The swallow parents have been making repairs to the nursery in preparation for 2010 Brood #2.

Horses are popular where I live, and various equines reside in my neighborhood. The swallows will collect long mane or tail hairs that are shed and carry them back to the nest. They weave the long wirelike filaments into the mud to reinforce the nest.

The parents fly in and out of the nest about a hundred times a day. Last year the mother became entangled in one of the strands and though we were able to free her, it was not pleasant for anyone. So now, when I see the streamers flapping about, I go out there with a pair of scissors and cut the damn things off so the swallows don’t hang themselves. Wouldn’t you?

I’m bemused by some of the birdbrained building plans of this swallow family. Why? Why would they use an ingredient that is very likely to be dangerous? I don’t know. But I will continue to care for my precious little charges to the best of my ability. There is no better natural insect control than birds and bats, and swallows are at the top of the list. And even if they weren’t I would do it anyway.

2 responses to “More Mysteries of the Swallows

  1. I’ve been tied down with chores and have wanted to get back to your post. We have swallows. They perform the same building techniques you describe. I have horses and the swallows love to use the long hairs. I will watch for the long ones. You cut the hairs. You do that for the swallows and to prevent your anguish of seeing ensnarement. There’s a bit of a kinship, stewardship, with the birds. You see what they do and know they help cleanse the air of mosquitoes. Our swallows have multiplied this year and their eating mosquitoes has eliminated our use of burning citronella oil on the porch.

  2. Exactly! When critters build their nest so close to me, I abandon my “nonaction” policy. I feel a responsibility to watch over them. They must love the horse hair at your ranch—all those choices!

    Are they not amazing to watch hunt? Aerial showoffs!

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