Sunday, December 28, 2014

Barn Swallows ... Courageous, Tame, and Devoted

by Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
Photos and text © 2014 Adele Wilson

Barn Swallows …
  • Their courage in choosing to nest so close to humans
  • Their amazing tameness toward humans
  • Their cooperative social patterns with each other
  • Their phenomenal abilities to swerve, swoop, and play in the air
  • Their steadfast devotion to their offspring
  • Their miraculous communications to humans

These are some of the many things that astonished me during my personal, up-close observations of these charming little birds while they nested on my porch.  If I hadn’t recorded my observations at the time, I would have forgotten how remarkable and often unfathomable they were.  Much of what I witnessed was so astounding that I probably would not have believed it by reading about it secondhand.
In my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows, I describe all of the above and so much more.  You can read about the unexpected locations on which one beloved male Barn Swallow perched all night on my porch and why he perched there.  You can read about how that same Barn Swallow communicated specifically to me on two occasions, once through typical Barn Swallow twittering, and again by his body language on the utility wire while perched next to two other Barn Swallows.  You can read more about my intimate encounters with this particular Barn Swallow at

The book contains 186 pages and 117 color photos, many of which depict baby Barn Swallows in different stages of life.  There are also photos of the babies being fed by their parents.  The reader is treated to rare photos of juvenile Barn Swallows, nine to ten days after leaving the nest and after they have learned to feed themselves.  Their plumage differences are fascinating.

You can easily purchase the paperback edition of this book on Amazon.  The US link is:

and the UK link is

Part I of the book is available on Kindle in the US at:

and in the UK at:


Sunday, December 14, 2014

How Baby Barn Swallows Grow Up (includes photos)

by Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
Photos and text © 2014 Adele Wilson

Bonding with the Barn Swallows consists of 186 pages and includes 117 photos.  The book is available from Amazon at:

In eastern West Virginia, Barn Swallows return from South America around mid-April.  After recuperating from their long journey north by resting and feasting on flying insects, the swallows begin their courtship activities.

Once the female chooses a mate, her mate will show her either a previously used nest or a new nesting site.  If the female approves of the location, the pair will begin to either refurbish the old nest or, if no old nest is available, to build a nest from scratch.

Once the nest is ready, the pair of swallows begin lining it with feathers.  The feathers ensure both warmth and cushioning for the soon-to-be-laid eggs.

A female Barn Swallow generally lays three to six eggs, with the average number being five.  She begins incubating her eggs on the day before the last egg is laid and continues incubating them for about thirteen to fifteen days.

During the incubation time period, the female sits on the nest all night.  The male will guard her by perching near the nest in order to prevent her from mating with other males.

The male will take turns sitting on the eggs during the daytime so that the female can forage for flying insects.  The female will return to the nest when she has had her fill, allowing the male to leave the nest and do the same.  Just before sunset, the female will settle into the nest for the night.

The eggs hatch over a period of one to three days.  The hatchlings are tiny, pink, and featherless.  The female must continue sitting on the nest for the first few days in order to keep the hatchlings warm.  She will take only short breaks outside the nest to capture insects on the fly.  Both the female and the male feed the chicks by bringing insects to the nest.

The babies will not be large enough to show their heads above the nest for a few days.  In fact their eyes are still closed during the first week of their lives. 

As the babies grow larger, so does the job of feeding them.   Feeding the babies is an arduous task that begins just after sunrise and lasts until sunset.

Barn Swallows are very devoted parents. The papa Barn Swallow shares the duty of feeding the nestlings.  It is not unusual for the parent swallows, one at a time, to arrive at the nest with food every few minutes.

The babies are able to start flapping their wings on their ninth day of life.  From about day twelve they are able to preen themselves.  While their feathers are still growing, the babies display a rather ragged appearance.

By the time a chick is sixteen to seventeen days old, it has acquired much of its juvenile plumage.  Chicks can fledge (leave the nest) at the age of eighteen days or wait as long as twenty-three days.  Nineteen days is the average fledging age that I have observed.

In the cases of some broods, all of the chicks leave the nest on the same day, while in other cases, part of the brood will fledge on one day, with the other part waiting until the next day.  Often a fledgling will return to the nest on the night of the day that it has fledged.  It will spend the night, and then leave the nest for good the following day.

The photo on the right was taken the night before the day that all five of the chicks fledged from the nest.  I came home from work that evening to find the nest totally bare.

But later that evening, there was a great surprise.  Two of the fledglings returned to the nest and spent the night!  Early the next morning, however, the two fledglings left the nest for good.  As I was leaving for work that morning, I spotted all five of the fledglings on a fence in a nearby horse pasture, awaiting feeding by their parents.

It has been said that the parents will spend a week feeding the fledglings outside the nest, but sometimes this time period can be extended.  To the left is a photo of a juvenile, about ten days after leaving the nest.  My estimate of its age is about 29 days.

In Bonding with the Barn Swallows, I share my personal experiences with three broods of Barn Swallows on my porch through text and photos.  The book describes the wonders of seeing them guard the nest area from the utility wire, the male guarding his mate (from quite unusual positions on the porch!), marking the nest with a feather, incubating the eggs, feeding the babies, and even taking breaks to land on the porch rail to let me photograph them! 

Included is the story about how one special male Barn Swallow and I became friends.  He even communicated to me twice, once vocally and the other through his body language.  Two days after he communicated to me by body language, an event revealed what he was trying to tell me.

If you are interested in close-up perspectives of bird behavior or just want to learn more about birds, this is the book for you!

Just click on the image below to order:


Friday, December 12, 2014

25% off Book: Bonding with the Barn Swallows
25% Savings at Amazon!
Only $26.54 (regularly $35.39)

117 color photos, 186 pages, 21 chapters
You won't be disappointed!
Do Barn Swallows communicate with humans?  Yes!  I developed an intimate relationship with one of the fourteen baby Barn Swallows who were hatched on my porch.  The baby returned the following spring, claimed the nest, and we became close friends. This is a true story!

The Barn Swallow who returned the following spring taught me that wild birds actually DO communicate with us, both vocally and by body language.  The message that he was conveying to me was borne out a few days later by an event that occurred.  You can read about that and much more in my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows.

What a bargain!  $8.85 off the regular price of the book , but ONLY UNTIL 11:59 PM PST SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14.  To purchase, just click on the image below, follow the instructions for purchasing, and enter BOOKDEAL25 at checkout under the "Gift cards & promotional codes" section.  This will be on the page after you enter your shipping and billing addresses.

Just click on the image to go to the Amazon page and look inside the book:

Hurry, this Amazon offer expires Sunday night, December 14, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time, equivalent to Tuesday morning, December 15, 2:59 am Eastern Time.  For further information on the offer, you can go to Take an Extra 25% Off Any Book.

Save $8.85!

Be sure to order your copy before midnight Sunday, December 14th!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mockingbird Battle Continues ...
by Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows, on sale for 25% off until midnight Sunday night, December 14, at Amazon!
You will need to use a promotional code.  See my December 12th post for details.
Photos and text © 2014 Adele Wilson

This must be the Year of the Mockingbird!  As you may have read in my previous posts, Mockingbirds have taken over the tree by the driveway and any suet feeders that have been hanging there.  Having decided that the tree is part of their territory, the Mockingbirds have been chasing any other types of birds away from that tree.  Here are the previous posts:

Adventures in Bird Feeding, Part 1:  Keeping Peace with the Mockingbirds
Update on the Mockingbirds - Are they still interfering? 

April 10, 2014 - Two feeders
There were originally two feeders hanging from the tree by the driveway, the tree that I now call the Mockingbird Tree.  The photo to the right was taken April 10, 2014, and shows the two feeders side by side.

A few weeks ago, with the Mockingbirds preventing the other birds from eating, I moved one of the feeders to a mimosa tree, about 50 to 60 feet away from the Mockingbird Tree.  For a while, it seemed to work.  Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, Chickadees, House Finches, and Downy Woodpeckers were all showing up at that feeder.

The mimosa tree
One day I saw a Mockingbird perching on the mimosa tree.  "Oh no," I thought, "Are the Mockingbirds going to take over that tree also?"  At the same time, a female Cardinal landed on the Mockingbird Tree and proceeded to eat from the feeder.  As soon as the Mockingbird on the mimosa sighted the female Cardinal feeding from its tree, it suddenly flew to that tree and chased the female Cardinal away.

So far I hadn't been seeing the numbers of birds in my backyard that were there last winter.  Was it because of the Mockingbirds chasing the other birds from both feeders?  Or, perhaps the roaming cats around here had found some meals.  Or, maybe some birds had become snatched up by the many hawks I've seen flying overhead.

Perhaps the quality of the suet cakes had been to blame.  Last year at this time, I had made "suet" cakes from scratch, and a great number of birds had been attracted to them.  So, I decided to make some cakes again to see if they would attract a greater number of birds.

Early in the morning of Tuesday, December 9th, with an inch of snow on the ground, I hung a new suet cage feeder on the mimosa tree, filled with one of my homemade cakes.  I had made the cake from a base of peanut butter, and added corn flour, ground sunflower seed, chopped peanuts, and raisins.

Cardinal and Titmouse
[In a future post, I will give the recipe that I used for the new "suet" mixture.  If you are interested in it, please follow this blog by entering your email address at the top of this page and to the right.]

Within a couple of minutes of hanging the homemade peanut butter cake on the morning of December 9th, a female Cardinal and a Tufted Titmouse showed up and shared the feeder that contained the new homemade cake.  All seemed well!

Chowing down!
But, by the next morning, things had changed.  The Mockingbird had discovered the new cake.  The photo to the right shows the Mockingbird on the feeder, where he spent the next few minutes chowing down on the cake!

This morning I stepped out on the porch and saw the Mockingbird fly from one tree to the other.  He even posed for me on the Mockingbird Tree, glaring at me, as if giving me a warning not to encroach on his territory.

Mockingbird warning me!

I am in a quandary as to what I can do about this, if anything.  The Mockingbirds seemed to have declared my back yard off limits for any other birds.  If any of you have suggestions, I would very much appreciate your commenting below.

 *     *     *     *     * birds are not dumb!  They are sentient beings who often communicate specific things to humans.  You can read about how I determined this to be a fact based on my intimate experiences with Barn Swallows as described in my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Intimate Encounters with Barn Swallows
by Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
Photos and text © 2014 Adele Wilson

In Bonding with the Barn Swallows, Nature's Best Teachers, I share accounts of my personal interactions with these charming birds.

There is one male swallow in particular who demonstrates unusual tameness.  At first bewildered and perplexed by the swallow’s behavior, I eventually ascertain the reason for his friendliness.

The male swallow chatters to me one morning while perching on the porch rail at a distance of only three feet.  Nine days later, from the utility wire, he again attempts to communicate with me through his unmistakable body language.

Two days later, the mystery is solved.  An event reveals the content of the male swallow’s message to me

Bonding with the Barn Swallows is available at Amazon and would make a perfect holiday gift for someone who loves to study birds.

Part I (the first 8 of 21 chapers) is available in Kindle format.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle reading app on the Amazon website.  Here is an image of the cover of the Kindle version.  Once you click on the image, you can read a great deal of the first part of the book for free: