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Among the more colorful passerines, the swallow is one of the most beautiful. With a body full of spots that are actually hairs, it is an excellent shape for catching the eye of humans. In fact, the swallow is so pretty that even the people who are not keen on birds have taken a fancy to it. It is listed as a rare animal in the United States, although it is slightly common in some parts of the North Americas. Because of its beauty, the swallow is often referred to as the “emblem of the species,” and has played a key role in natural history since the earliest days of human culture.
The swallow is a land-based bird that breeds primarily in the southern hemisphere, with a few occurrences in the northern and even offshore parts of its range. The swallows, acorn hydrada, martins, or hirundini, are part of a highly successful family of passerine birds native to all continents, with the exception of sometimes Antarctica. Highly adept to flying, they have an interesting, streamlined look, with sharp, rounded wings that enable them to move quickly and powerfully in air. Their name, based on their ability to glide gracefully over land and water, comes from the Greek word for “wing.”
Many birds, including the swallow, use song to communicate with other birds. It has long been known that a female swallow can produce a sweet song to attract a mate. The male of the species also makes a similar song to signal the potential mate. These songs are very similar to those of the bird song parrots and are considered to be an important factor in the mating behavior of these birds. However, there are differences in the mating calls of the two sexes, and scientists are still studying the functions of this form of communication in nature.
Swallows are large, with an average weight of about twenty pounds, although the size varies by the species. They live mostly on land, with some living in lakes and rivers, in mud puddles, or in other terrestrial habitats. Swallows are very adaptable, able to hold both inland and aquatic habitats. They are particularly famous for their annual migration, which they use to fly from one marsh in Australia to another marsh in New Zealand.
The species usually live in large fields or thickets. Swallows have large, dark-colored plumage, which gives them their name. While they are land dwellers, some swallow species also make excursions onto inland waters or even onto dry land. Some of them, such as the eastern swallow, have even been recorded at altitudes much higher than the typical flight path of most pilots.
The swallow lives in calm waters, out of harm’s way. They seldom become aggressive, unless there is a threat to their territory, such as a bigger, more aggressive bird or a boat. As they are land dwellers, their food consists mainly of worms, small fish, and other crustaceans. Swallows feed by picking up worms on the surface of the water and swallowing them. It’s easy to see why the swallow is a favorite animal of swimmers and sailors.