The first birds were noticed breeding in 1958 but they are now common and have spread across the country. You can recognize them from their forked tails and long pointed wings.
They build their nests directly under the eaves of houses, barns and under bridges. Birds return to nest in the same spot for many years. If the nest is destroyed they simply build a new one.
Their neat, cup-shaped nests are made of mud and grasses and lined with feathers. They can lay up to seven eggs in a nest and may rear three clutches in a season, with fledged young sometimes helping to feed the new brood. Brown speckles dot their pinky white eggs which only the female sits on. When she leaves the nest the male bird will watch it.
Both birds feed their young. The babies open their mouths wide as soon as the parent appears, showing gaping orange mouths outlined in bright yellow. Despite the dim light the parent bird can clearly see where to put the food they have brought. Males keep the nest clean by carrying away the baby birds’ fecal sacks – nature’s disposable nappies. As soon as babies leave the nest they stop producing fecal sacs.
They swoop and dart flying fast. Swallows can change direction quickly catching insects on the wing. They can drink while flying. They swoop over a lake or pond and scoop up water as they skim the surface.
They can live for six years.
- Radio NZ Bird Watching – Welcome swallow
- NZ Birds Online warou page
- Wildscreen Arkive welcome swallow page