Violet-green Swallow Female in Nest

Every few years I am lucky enough to have Violet-green Swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) take up residence on one of my Bluebird trails. This year I have two pair nesting on two different trails! The featured image above shows a female incubating eggs from my first resident breeding pair back in 2007.

Violet-green Swallows will nest solitarily or in colonies and in my experience seem much more mellow than other swallow species. This is a male that was perched near the nest box of this years occupants. Click on photos for full sized images.

Violet-green Swallow Male

These elegant birds nest in cavities of various sites, including trees, cliffs, and nesting boxes. Less common but also recorded are nests in sand banks, streamside cut banks, and old nests of Cliff and Bank swallows. They like trees in open areas, like open groves or woodland edges. Nests are usually in hollow parts or in old woodpecker nests, between rocks in cliffs or in porous vapor holes of volcanic formations, and in nesting boxes under eaves of buildings or on trees1.

The Violet-green Swallow nest is an accumulation of dry grasses with a cup lined with feathers and sometimes hair or fine fibers. The four to six eggs are white and unmarked.

Violet-green Swallow Eggs

I have discovered that my iPhone takes an excellent close-up photo of the inside of the nest box without using a flash. I took this photo of newly hatched nestlings just the other day during my regular monitoring check. It’s not as clear as the photo of the eggs above but I did not want to disturb the female as she was circling the nest to resume her duties.

I was quite surprised to see how small these newly hatched nestlings are. There appear to be three newly hatched chicks and one egg unhatched (this nest had four eggs). The nestling in the middle of the photo is the most recognizable with its head turned to our left, the dark spot on the head is where its eye will be and the white area below is the beginning of a beak. You can also see the bird’s leftt wing sticking out.

Violet-green Swallow Hatchlings

The nestlings eyes open around day 8 to 10 and feathers break sheaths at day 10 to 13. These nestlings are probably around 10 days old except the runt seen in the middle of the photo.

Violet-green Swallow Nestlings

The young leave the nest at 23 to 25 days of age and are primarily fed on the wing. This is mom coming back to the nest box to check on her new brood.

Violet-green Swallow Female

And another shot of the proud male perched nearby.

Violet-green Swallow Male

References: 1Birds of North America Online


Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.