R.L. Beattie Tree Swallow Stewards
Updated: May 11, 2021
Have you seen streamlined tree swallows, with their blue-green backs, white belly and long pointed wings performing aerial acrobatics across the surface of Nepahwin Lake lately?
These early spring arrivals were in for a treat this year. R.L. Beattie Grade 6 Experiential Learning Program students were busy building bird nest boxes in the Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School woodworking shop in December 2019. The pandemic altered plans in the spring of 2020, but now some nest boxes will be placed in the Lo-Ellen area while others were donated to the Idylwylde to add to their established tree swallow nest box population. This population now returns every spring to nest, after a long migration, most probably flying along the Atlantic Coast from their winter range in Florida and Central America.
Tree swallows will lay 4-7 pale pink eggs, with an incubation period of 11-20 days. The hatchlings are helpless, with closed eyes and only sparsely covered with down. After 15-25 days as nestling, they are ready to fly.
These agile fliers eat all kinds of flying insects including dragonflies, wasps, and moths and aren’t afraid to take on a 2-inch meal. During breeding season, tree swallows also seek out high calcium foods such as fish bones and egg shells from loons, gulls or backyard composts.
Tree swallows are common, but overall populations in North America declined by 49% between 1966-2014. Numbers probably declined due to limited availability of nesting sites such as natural cavities in dead trees or old woodpecker cavities. Luckily, they adapt to appropriately sized nesting boxes well….so a big cheer for all the students at R.L. Beattie who are amazing Nepahwin Lake swallow stewards!
To learn more about tree swallows go to: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tree_Swallow/lifehistory
Photo Credit: R.L. Beattie P.S., NLWSG, Jay Sisko.