Tree Swallow

Range Map
Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallows breed in North America and spend their winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Historically, these birds have used natural cavities in trees for nesting, but they have learned to exploit bluebird nesting boxes.

While insects comprise most of their food base, they can survive on plant based food such as berries. In winter, this strategy helps them get through cold snaps, and factors into their being able to survive winters further north than other swallow species.

Extensively studied, researchers consider the Tree Swallow as a “model organism”. Close examinations of these birds have led to revelations about other species.

Researchers view the Tree Swallow as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

I once met this species near Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory (Canada) while on my way to Alaska in 2005. In 2022, I returned to Canada and met more of these brilliant birds in British Columbia and Alberta. However, most of my encounters have been in the lower forty-eight states, in California, Oregon, and Utah. Once, while exploring remote trails on the northeastern shores of Lake Crowley in the high country east of the Sierra-Nevada mountains, I found myself in a large mixed flock of swallows loafing in the sage-scrub near the water’s edge. Sharing company with the Tree Swallows were Bank, Cliff, Violet-Green, and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows. I suspect they were all tuckered out migrants, because they seemed content to sit for close portraits as long as I crept slowly or sat still.

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