One by one, they rise into the sky over the Maumee River. Gliding toward the sun, the light flashes against long wings of blue-green iridescence. Twirling forward, flying insects are efficiently swept into their open beaks with the help of sharp eyesight. Angling downward, they skim the water to bathe and drink.
These flight specialists are tree swallows -- also known in the birding world as aerial insectivores and capable of ingesting 2,000 insects a day! Their aerial antics are fun to observe while picnicking or boating at Side Cut, Howard Marsh or Middlegrounds Metropark. Mostly found at sites near water sources, tree swallows are cavity nesters that will utilize old tree snags, as well as man-made bird boxes for nesting. While these birds are still common in Ohio, the North American Breeding Bird Survey reports an overall decline of almost 50% since 1966.
To support tree swallow conservation, Metroparks has placed nesting boxes at Howard Marsh, Side Cut, Middlegrounds, Oak Openings Preserve, Secor, and Swan Creek Preserve. Approximately 80 young birds were fledged in 2019 with the help of volunteer monitors. If you live near a water source, consider placing a nesting box for tree swallows on your property or leaving a cavity tree -- remember, they are a great control for insect pests and fun to watch.
Did you know? During the breeding season, (for Calcium intake), tree swallows will sometimes eat small parts of mussel shells, crayfish exoskeletons, and eggshells.