Whitesburg KY
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Adults, other kin help teach swallows how to fly



I can’t promise, however bored you may be of the subject, that that this will be the last you hear about my baby barn swallows, but this is a chapter I simply have to write.

Actually, they are not babies anymore, having taken to wing, all five of them, more than two weeks ago, and was that ever a sight to witness. The parents literally flogged them off the nest, one at a time, and they flew out and about the yard and then the great beyond like they’d been doing it all their lives.

But seemingly, out of nowhere, several other adult swallows showed up to teach flying lessons. And when one of the kids got tired and had to light on the porch swing or on one of Loretta’s hanging flower baskets there in the yard, an adult would be right beside it. And when the kid decided to fly again, the adult would be right beside or underneath it and almost immediately they were doing synchronized acrobatics as though they had practiced the routine for years.

I’ve watched very young robins and wrens and cardinals and bluejays struggle to leave the nests for many years and I have often wondered how they survived because they almost always wind up on the ground. And the parents go to yawking and talking to fight off a feral cat or snake or other predator that might want a baby bird for breakfast.

Not so with swallows. The kinfolk come in to help rear the young, just as they did to help build the nest that turned them from tiny eggs into brilliant, vibrant birds. And I’m thinking to myself that this is an Appalachian thing. Or maybe it is Amish. The building of the nest on our front porch was nothing short of a barnraising. At least a dozen swallows helped build that nest for a nesting pair and we can only guess that they were newlyweds. Communal for sure, are the swallows. Love at it’s best is what I do believe.

The care the young ones get from all the neighbors is the way that I grew up. Barn swallows know how to take care of their own.

Two of the hatchlings from our porch still hang around. They stop short of landing in my hair or on my hands, but when I go outside they light on the porch swing chains when I relax or they cling to the nearby window shutters. It’s a trust thing and I’m pretty sure that the fact they spent weeks watching me read the paper early in the morning has something to do with it. I’m not entirely convinced that they can’t read because they stare at the front page with intense interest.

This evening, just at dusk, all five of the young swallows are flitting and hanging round our porch and admiring the nest that once was home. My two trustees are sitting on the back of the swing as I sit here writing and I could touch them if I dared.


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