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Orin

The Barn Swallow

Everything you want to know about the barn swallow can be found on the web. I suggest Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. Before you quit reading because you think this is boring, did you know the male barn swallow will kill all the gaping, downy chicks in a nest for a chance to mate with mama? It’s true. It’s on the website.

Barn swallows remind me of humans in other ways as well, besides just killing to get what they want. The juvenile barn swallow will catch insects for the next clutch that their parents have. Yes, their teenagers need summer jobs too. Barn swallows used to make their muddy, hanging basket nests in caves, but not anymore. No, for most barn swallows living in caves is a thing of the past. Now, they prefer, well, barns. Or bridges. Or cabins. You get the idea. If there is an exposed rafter or beam, the barn swallow can build a nest on it. Since the 7.5 billion humans have turned Earth into their own private termite mound, this bird is now the most numerous swallow of them all. A blue and orange blessing in disguise.

You can see the pictures on the website. Shimmering blue on top and rusty orange on the bottom. Like the water and grasslands they glide over, these birds are gorgeous. So much so that they were actually the start of the Audubon Society. Ladies liked feathers in their hats. Pretty feathers. Feathers like the barn swallow has. Many birds were killed for their beauty before Mr. Grinnell wrote one hell of an article for Forest and Stream magazine in 1886. Hence, we have the Audubon Society and because of folks like them we still have a diverse range of birds. This is all found on Cornell’s website.

Of course, there are things that they do not tell you, like how the chicks wiggle their bottoms over the side of the nest to add to the big glob of white poo underneath. The website will not tell you what a barn swallow chick feels like, wrapped in a paper towel, as you try to place it back in the nest or how a chick looks with its wing bent out and laboring to breath on a cement porch as its siblings squeak for attention above.

I wondered if it matters. Even if there were 7.5 billion of the things on earth, does one barn swallow chick matter?

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