But probably the reason why they have such a special place in my heart is because we have the privilege of watching them raise their young ones each year. Because Violet-Green Swallows are cavity nesters, we even have the ability to take part in their family life by providing them with a home. What a joy it is to see a swallow family take up residence in our nest boxes! They seem to know these small homes were made just for them. But whatever the reason, every year I look forward to the first sighting of our beloved swallows.
I remember one time I had just constructed two new nest boxes for the swallows. Shortly after installation, the paint was scarcely dry, but the swallows had already chosen our little nest boxes as their new homes - one pair for each box. One pair were Tree Swallows - the other Violet Green. Over the years we've watched the swallows come back to these next boxes year after year. While the homeownership has changed hands (or wings shall we say :) a few times - the thrill of seeing swallows raise their babies in the homes we built for them has never gone away.
Because of the enjoyment we have from seeing our swallow friends, the arrival of the first pair for each species in our area is an important occasion. I usually know when the swallows are due to arrive, but sometimes they surprise me! This year, our first Violet-Green Swallow pair of the season arrived early - on March 3rd, 2015. They seem to come earlier and earlier every year - or maybe its just that my eye has been trained to see them right away as soon as they arrive after years of observing swallows. More than anything, I know that, simply put seeing these swallows is a gift from God - He alone knows the joy it brings to my heart to see such beauty in His creation.
Though I'm tempted to linger and reminisce about our experiences with swallows ever since I was a kid, I wanted to share with you some facts and information about the Violet-Green Swallow - which is why I've chosen to feature them in this month's In Scope! I'll also show you how to build a nest box of your own to help attract them to your yard.
Attracting Violet-Green Swallows
You can also provide nest material for all kinds of birds by stuffing a suet cage with organic materials such as dog, horse, cat or human hair (like out of your brush) - as well as yarn, straw, dried grass and hay. This year, we're experimenting with a combination of nest materials - including hair from one of our dogs, horse hair, cotton and sheep's wool yarn scraps, straw and hay. I'll be updating you on how our experiement goes - but if you want to learn more about this project - simply click here.
Zoom In: Species Profile
The scientific name of the Violet-Green Swallow is Tachycineta thalassina. This small bird is 5 - 5 1/2 inches long. Male and female look similar to one another - both have dark green iridescent feathers on their head, back and tail, with violet highlights on their rump and tail. Their tail is somewhat forked, but not as deeply forked as the Barn Swallow's tail. The underside of the Violet-Green Swallow is creamy to bright white. Violet-Green Swallows look very similar to the Tree Swallow, but they can be easily distinguished from each other. Violet-Greens have green and purple feathers and white 'cheeks' that extend above their eye. Tree Swallows are a metallic navy steel blue color with a sort of navy colored 'cap' on their head. Their white markings do not extend above their eye.
The voice of the Violet-Green Swallow is a variety of twittering calls, as well as a distinctive 'dee-chip' call uttered during flight.
The preferred habitats of the Violet-Green Swallow are agricultural areas, forests, woodlands, mountainous areas and suburbs. The Violet-Green Swallow is a cavity nester, meaning that they nest in old woodpecker holes, under the eaves of structures and even in man-made nest boxes. Their nest is made of grasses, feathers, hair and other natural materials constructed inside a cavity. The female lays 4-5 white eggs. Both the male and female feed the young after hatching.
Violet-Green Swallows are migratory birds in our area, spending the spring and summer here in the Western United States and wintering mostly in Central and South America - with a small population spending their winter in Southern California. Violet-Green Swallows usually arrive in our area in late March or early to mid April - but this year, as a mentioned, they came earlier than usual.
In conclusion this month, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite scriptures in the Psalms. Its Psalm 84:3 -4 AMP, which says,
By, Jessi Wasell