We continue with the last of the Tree Swallow feeding photos from Emilio d’Alise. I reprise his introduction below (indented), and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.
Nest Competition, Feeding, and Hovering
From 2007 to 2013, I lived in Colorado and worked in Woodland Park (8,100 ft. elevation). We had an empty lot next to the office, and we put up a Bluebird house. For the first three years, we had Bluebirds nesting in it, but in 2011, a pair of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) moved in, and returned each year for the next three years. This post from 2011 documents the final weeks before that year’s brood fledged — they all fledged, but a hawk got one of them —and it includes photos and videos.
But, the year that I got serious about photographing them was 2012, and these are some of the photos from those sessions.
As I mentioned, the birdhouse is sized for Bluebirds, which are smaller birds, so the typical Tree Swallows brood of 5-7 makes for a pretty tight fit just before they fledge. Early on, the adults will enter the nest to feed the chicks.
On most feedings, a fair portion of the adult’s head goes inside the beak of the chick (both close their eyelids during contact) to ensure the meal is not lost. Still, occasionally, a few bugs fall out before the chick has a good grasp of it, probably because various parts of the bug may be stuck to the adult’s plumage.
On average, I would say at the peak (when I was shooting), the parents were coming by about every one to two minutes.
As far as I could tell, for a few weeks — from early morning to dusk — both adults did nothing but catch bugs and feed the chicks.