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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

An unusual Bank Swallow nesting

Bank Swallows are nesting in a dirt pile at a city maintenance yard near our home. This is where I watched Belted Kingfishers a few weeks ago. The kingfishers are gone, hopefully with a happy ending to their nesting. The Bank Swallows are even better as photo subjects because the chicks in that nest are old enough to stand at the nest entrance as they actively wait for food to be delivered by their parents.

 

This nesting is interesting because it’s a solo effort. Bank Swallows are colonial nesters, perhaps eight or more at one location. They often choose the banks of rivers or lakes where they can find the steep embankment faces they need. I’ve found colonies in gravel pits in Wisconsin. The birds are not equipped with any special physical features to aid burrowing. Kingfishers have a webbed toe on each foot with which they dig and move dirt. The swallows use their bills, feet and wings to fashion a burrow usually about a foot deep. (Kingfishers will dig in as far as eight feet; they need tools.)

 

Bank Swallows are among those bird species that migrate to South America for our winter following the long land route. They do not cross the Gulf of Mexico as many songbird species do. These swallows migrate through Mexico and Central America to South America where they can be found from the continent’s top to bottom.

 

The nest I’m watching has four chicks, a typical clutch. They are being fed a typical Bank Swallow diet, 99 percent insects, almost all taken on the wing.

 

 

 

The breast band which is an easy identification mark for this species already is visible on the chicks.

They are very close to fledging.

Hey, there's a Necrophila americana in this nest box!

Checking nest boxes recently, I found a dead bluebird, and this fellow. It’s an American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana), about 3/4 of an inch in size. (It’s shown on a one-inch board.) It was on the dead bird to lay eggs. Hatched, the larvae would consume the body. On a smaller scale, these creatures play the same role as vultures — keeping the place clean. It's got a cool Latin name.

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