usually hatch in May. They start out inside creamy or pinkish white eggs
splotched and dotted with reddish and purplish brown, weighing about 2 grams.
They live in the egg for about 2 weeks. When they hatch, the babies' eyes
are closed, and they are naked except for some gray tufts of feathers on
their forehead, shoulders, head, and back. It doesn't take long for baby
swallows to feather out.
baby do you think will be fed next?
do you think these babies stay so close together?
do you think these babies are all facing the same way?
their colorful mouth linings, bright sparkly eyes, and soft plumage, many
people find baby Barn Swallows especially endearing. These
little birds remain in the nest until they are 18-23 days old and weigh
about 17.5 grams. Compare that to baby robins, which fledge when they
are 14-16 days old and weigh over 50 grams!
Fledging From High Places
don't nest in trees. A swallow builds its nest on a barn rafter, bridge
overhang, or other structure well off the ground. If a baby swallow doesn't
make a strong first flight, it will crash on the ground. In order to survive
this first flight, a swallow fledgling must have strong wings. That's
why it starts exercising, flapping its little wings hard, by the time
it's 9 days old. When it's time to fledge, some babies look out at the
big world, flap their wings, and suddenly take off! But other babies are
more reluctant to fly out. One summer Journey North science writer Laura
Erickson watched a family of four baby Barn Swallows for a few days. One
morning about an hour after sunrise, she noticed that two of the babies
had already left the nest. When Laura checked on the babies at lunchtime,
a third baby had fledged. But the fourth baby just sat--still in the nest,
looking around but not budging. Laura sat down and watched as the mother
flew up to the nest. She hovered in one spot for over a minute, chattering
and looking directly at her baby as if to say, "Come on!" The
mother swallow did this many times over the next two hours. During that
time, Laura did not see her feed the baby at all. Finally, Laura had to
leave for a few minutes. When she came back, the baby was out of the nest,
perched on a tree branch with its brothers and sisters, and Laura was
sad to have missed its triumphant first flight.
If you have
a Barn Swallow nest near your home, check on the babies every day or two.
Try to spend extra time near the nest when the babies are getting close
to fledging, and see if you can watch them fledge. If you see a Barn Swallow's
first flight, write to us at Journey North and describe what you saw!
This! Discussion or Journaling Questions
- Why do
you think the few feathers on baby barn swallows at hatching are all
on the upper rather than the lower side of the body?
- Why do
you think that baby swallows remain in the nest so much longer than
baby robins even though swallows don't have to grow as much? (HINT:
Think about the different places their nests are in and the different
foods they eat.)
think about and discuss your answers--including the three questions asked
in the photo captions above-- compare your answers with bird expert Laura