Time to Leave the Nest and Glow Up

Posted July 19, 2023 by Lauren, Education Coordinator

Contributed by Lauren Kerley, Wildlife Rescue Education Coordinator

Cute may not be the first word that comes to your mind when you see a baby bird. Hatchlings and nestlings can look strange, with odd proportions and unfamiliar plumage. Baby birds go through a huge transformation to become recognizable adult birds.

Swallow babies, like the Barn Swallow nestling pictured above, are great examples of a glow up in the bird world. Swallow babies undergo a beautiful transformation that prepares them for life on the wing.

Swallows are elegant birds both perched and in flight. Their distinct flight patterns, elongated body shape and deeply forked tail make them easily recognizable in flight. Their beautiful plumage is best admired while the birds are perched. Swallows have two tone plumage patterns, darker on top and lighter underneath. Colours range from glimmering cobalt blues found in Barn Swallows to vibrant greens and purples of the Violet-Green Swallows.

Their feathers are more than just for show though as the birds are highly specialized for aerial life, spending an impressive 60% of their time in the air. Not only do the birds hunt and eat in the air, but they also drink and bathe while in flight too!

Even these beautiful songbirds have drab babies, like many other baby birds, swallow nestlings have spotted or streaked plumage to help them camouflage in their nests, protecting them from predators. A lot of changes need to occur before babies are ready to leave the nest, a beautiful and necessary transformation.

Six swallow species call British Columbia home for at least part of the year; Bank Swallows, Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Violet-Green Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Populations of all six swallow species are in decline, with Barn and Bank Swallows being designated as threatened species under COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).

Posted in Education

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