Birds - Tree Swallow
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Tachycineta bicolor) Swallow family Called also : WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW
Length—5 to 6 inches. A little shorter than the English sparrow, but apparently much larger because of its wide wing-spread.
Male—Lustrous dark steel-green above; darker and shading into black on wings and tail, which is forked. Under parts soft white.
Female-Duller than male.
Range—North America, from Hudson Bay to Panama. Migrations—End of March. September or later. Summer resident.
"The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times: and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming." Jeremiah, VIII. 7.
The earliest of the family to appear in the spring, the tree swallow comes skimming over the freshly ploughed fields with a wide sweep of the wings, in what appears to be a perfect ecstasy of flight. More shy of the haunts of man, and less gregarious than its cousins, it is usually to be seen during migration flying low over the marshes, ponds, and streams with a few chosen friends, keeping up an incessant warbling twitter while performing their bewildering and tireless evolutions as they catch their food on the wing. Their white breasts flash in the sunlight, and it is only when they dart near you, and skim close along the surface of the water, that you discover their backs to be not black, but rich, dark green, glossy to iridescence.
It is probable that these birds keep near the waterways because their favorite insects and wax-berries are more plentiful in such places; but this peculiarity has led many people to the absurd belief that the tree swallow buries itself under the mud of ponds in winter in a state of hibernation. No bird's breathing apparatus is made to operate under mud.
In unsettled districts these swallows nest in hollow trees, hence their name; but with that laziness that forms a part of the degeneracy of civilization, they now gladly accept the boxes about men's homes set up for the martins. Thousands of these beautiful birds have been shot on the Long Island marshes and sold to New York epicures for snipe.