Naturalist Fact: Tree Swallows

Throughout most of the fall, we are treated to a spectacular show as thousands of tree swallows congregate during their migration.  Tree swallows, like all other swallows, feed primarily on insects captured as they fly.  They have short wide bills which open into gaping mouths, well suited for scooping insects out of the air.  However, unlike other swallows, the tree swallow will also eat berries.  On Little St Simons Island, their activity peaks during October, and we will commonly seen huge flocks feeding together on wax myrtle berries.  Berries and other plant material may make up to 20% of this species’ diet, especially during the winter when insects are scarce.  Tree swallows breed throughout much of northern North America and winter farther north than any other species of swallow.  Their wintering range includes coastal Georgia, Florida and south into Central America.  They migrate in huge flocks, primarily by day.  We will see them again as they head north in March and throughout the spring.  Keep an eye out for them along Beach Road and near Sancho Panza beach—anywhere there are dense stands of wax myrtle there may be clouds of tree swallows!

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