The Barn Swallow is the national emblem of Estonia. Their currency bears an image of a swallow. The Estonians were ahead of the curve on that, in my opinion. I wish our money had that kind of image, rather than those rusty old presidents whose hair makes them all look like madmen. When I’m commissioned to redo our currency, I’ll put these hungry mouths of Barn Swallow chicks in an egg-like oval in the middle of each bill. Swallows would also be good representatives on our currency as the most widespread swallow in the world, much like our influence, good or bad. For that matter, Michael Jackson should be on our money. Toss up: Barn Swallows or Michael Jackson. If a pool of school children was chosen from around the world, then asked to identify a Barn Swallow or Michael Jackson, which do you suppose they’d be most likely to recognize?
Perhaps I could consolidate the two: a Barn Swallow in flight, harnessed and trailing Michael Jackson through the sky. Throw in a little Shakespeare, “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings,” and you’ve got yourself a world class devolving dollar bill.
All Barn Swallows migrate, some far as Argentina and South Africa. Swallow tattoos are a tradition amongst sailors symbolizing long journeys and safe returns. A sailor gets his first tattoo after traveling 5,000 nautical miles. These Barn Swallows occupy a friend’s barn here in Phippsburg. There are ten nests, each one with 4-5 chicks. They usually lay twice in a summer, so that’s about 100 baby swallows from that barn each year. The success rate of the broods is about 75%. That’s a lot of swallows! Sitting in the barn, watching them zoom in and out feeding their chicks practically requires an umbrella. The barn owner has every square inch draped with plastic and paper, a sort of canvas for the splatter, like a Jackson Pollock painting without the talent.
Their mud pellet nests are repaired and reused for 10-15 years, but have been documented to have been used for 48 years! That’s a dilemma for a barn owner. The nests could be destroyed, forcing the swallows to rebuild. After all, what did Barn swallows do before barns? They nested in more precarious places, such as overhangs on cliffs. In the Northeast, they nest under Osprey nests. It’s a reciprocal arrangement where the birds of prey drive away other predatory birds while the swallows gobble up the flies accumulating in the rotten fish scraps in the Osprey nest. Barn swallows have thrived in our company and our safe structures for their nests. We also tolerate these flying guano machines for their fine dining on flying insects. Swallows have always been one of my favorite birds. Their zooming flight is like my mind - an elegant, dark thing tearing through a dim barn, resulting in a lot of crap.