Readers’ wildlife photos

July 16, 2023 • 8:15 am

Sunday is John Avise Themed Bird Photo Day, and today we have some favorites of Matthew and me, swallows and swifts. John’s narrative and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Swallows and Swifts

Swallows (Hirundinidae) and Swifts (Apodidae) are aerial insectivores that spend most of their lives in flight, catching insects while on the wing.  Despite their aerodynamic body forms and similarities in behavior, these two families of birds are not closely related, but instead gained this lifestyle independently, via convergent evolution.  Nevertheless, in a sense their common names could have been interchangeable, because it is certainly true that Swallows are swift, and Swifts do swallow lots of insects.  Altogether, each family has close to 100 species collectively distributed worldwide. This week’s post shows several North American species of Swallows and Swifts.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica):

Barn Swallow in flight:

Another Barn Swallow in flight:

Barn Swallow on nest with chick:

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota):

Cliff Swallow in flight:

Cliff Swallow mud nests:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis):

Northern Rough-winged Swallow in flight:

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor):

Tree Swallow in flight:

Violet-green Swallow in flight (Tachycineta thalassina):

Vaux’s Swift in flight (Chaetura vauxi):

White-throated Swift in flight (Aeronautes saxatalis):

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. These are great, thank you! It’s taken me a long time to tell them apart, but now I think I’ve got it — swallows flutter and dart, while swifts fly straight(ish) with stiff shallow wingbeats.

  2. Beautiful! Every year when the swallows arrived on Orcas Island, I had to deter them from nesting in the wooden infrastructure of our deck. Each time the swallows started to investigate, I ran outside to wave my arms at them. If I was diligent enough at just the right time in the spring, they gave up. We no longer live there, but it was fun while it lasted.

    1. We have some barn swallows that have been nesting on our porch for several years. It’s enjoyable to view the nest from the window, and the adults are quite approachable at night if they are sitting on a post away from the nest. Of course, they create a huge mess. And I am convinced that the adults use me to train the young: I am the target for their swooping attacks within days after they are old enough to fly!

  3. Is it possible to catch a swift not in flight? I have only seen them in flight, do they ever land? Well I guess they won’t lay their eggs and rear their chicks in flight, but still.
    I think Martins are also Hirundinidae, hence related to swallows. A three-pronged convergence was too good to be true.
    Wonderful photograps.

  4. Great set, as always- Thanks! We have a couple pair of barn swallows that nest in the same bird houses each year. I call them F-16s and I happily anticipate their arrival each spring.

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