It’s a delight to watch young barn swallows when they’re first learning to fly. Though initially awkward, they’re extremely quick learners: within a few days of fledging, they’re expert enough flyers to pluck their meals of insects from midair - and within a few weeks, they manage to fly all the way to Central or South America with their parents.
Barn swallows also very fast fliers: they’ve been clocked at 46 mph (74 km/hour).
I took this photo on an August afternoon in the village of Hartley Bay, when we were visiting on our boat. The young swallows were perched rather tippily on a power cable, seeming indecisive about what to do next, while their parents swooped by, landing occasionally to offer a tasty morsel or perhaps a nudge to get the youngsters moving. By climbing onto our top deck I was able to get a “birds-eye view” of their antics. They seemed to having a conversation that went something like: “You go first!” “No, you!”
An hour or two later, they were fully airborne, with no looking back. And by now they must be enjoying the warm temperatures in the southern hemisphere. I woudn’t want their gruelling travel schedule, but it must be nice to have summer all year round!
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