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

Cliff Swallows were busy with nest building

These Cliff Swallows were back and forth a few days ago, carrying mud for construction of their gourd-shaped nests tucked beneath the eves of a local barn. They carry one small chunk of mud per trip. Colonial nesters, many birds were busy that day. Cliff Swallows once nested on cliffs, and still will unless a barn or bridge or large culvert can be used. Man-made structures are the easiest place to look for them nowadays. You can see birds below, inside the completed gourd-shaped nests.

Tree Swallows almost always use feathers in nest construction

Tree Swallows almost always use feathers as nest construction material. I’ve found as many as a dozen in one nest. The feathers are usually white. I see this in the nest boxes I tend at a golf course in Wayzata. I have no idea where the birds find the feathers. Farms, farms with chickens, are few here, even in the western parts of the county. I used Trumpeter Swans feathers for these photos, feathers found near a Carver County pond owned by a friend. (The swans come to open water in the winter. )The swallow here struggled with the feathers, failing with larger, succeeding with smaller, fluffy feathers. This male Tree Swallow had encouragement but no help from its mate. Researchers say the feathers keep nests warmer. So, why don’t other cavity-nesting birds, like chickadees and woodpeckers, do the same?

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