Tree Swallows

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Mitch Booth
Posts: 478
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:23 am
Location: Akron, OH
Martin Colony History: 2012 - 0
2013 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 2 fledged
2014 - 0
2015 - 1 pair, 5 died during week of rain
2016 - 0
2017 - 1 pair, 4 eggs, 4 fledged
2018 - 4 pair, 19 eggs, 19 fledged
2019 - 7 pair
2020 -

Hi Everyone,

Today here in Northeast Ohio it is 34 degrees, sunny skies and not too much of a breeze. A beautiful day outside the chilly temperatures. I noticed about 15 tree swallows across the street buzzing the surface of the lake.

Are insects still active at 34 degrees?

Why can't martins eat if tree swallows are able to eat?

I guess I'm making the assumption that the tree swallows were feeding. They would fly around and make abrupt directional changes to their flight as if catching insects.

Just curious.

Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 789
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.


In addition to whatever insects that the tree swallows can skim over the lake surface, they are also capable of eating berries that remain on shrubs and trees. Although they are late here at my place in central Wisconsin (they arrived on March 21 in both 2009 and 2010), I have observed them eating the fruit from my high bush cranberry shrub in past years.

Another place to observe both tree swallows and martins feeding early in the season is over sewage lagoons. The water may be somewhat warmer and the insect even more prone to hatching.

Regarding the insect activity at low temperatures, there are a number of midges and other aquatic insects that are very active at low temperatures. It is still in the low 30s here and I have seen several moths flying at night when the temperatures are well into the 20s. Isn't nature fascinating!

Mary Wilson-SW Ont
Posts: 218
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 6:24 pm
Location: Leamington Ontario

Hi Mitch. As Ed replied, tree swallows can eat a variety of berries as well as insects, so are not as vulnerable as martins when the weather is bad. We have had TS in our backyard almost as long as we've had martins, and after we had trained our martins to accept supplemental food, I began putting some crickets on the top of the two birdhouses that the TS had nested in when the weather turned poor. Eventually one of our TS pair would light on the roof of the box and gobble up the small crickets I had left there. I have seen also at our golf course location, where I have been training for several years first with crickets and then egg, that a TS would avail himself of the B+B offerings. They can learn this strategy too - its quite fasincating. Members of our club have observed TS congregating on cold days on the south facing banks of Lake Erie, where insects likely are available at ground level, plus the extra warmth they can get there. Also in our area, where there are many greenhouse installations, we see TS flying low over them; I think there is a "micro-climate" there that affords some insect life. Birds are very opportunistic, even martins, which is good, since it helps us to help them ...

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