Swallows on the LA River

Every spring swarms of swallows setup camp under the bridges and roof eaves along the LA River. The video below shows a local colony of mostly cliff swallows doing their iconic aerial acrobatics which make them so fun to watch. My rough eye-ball estimate is that there are maybe 200 pairs in the local section of the river at the moment.

There are a bunch of different types of swallow. These here appear to mostly be the famed cliff swallows seen in Capistrano, marked by their white collar and crown, and square tail. The bird songs you hear in the video are not swallows, but  sparrows, mockingbirds and other singers who also live in abundance along the river. Swallows make the zirpy chattery noises that are also a lot of fun to hear.

One of the coolest things about the swallows is that they migrate from as far away as Argentina to wait-out the southern winter. Maybe it’s just me, but when I think migratory bird, I think goose or duck. The Spanish word for swallow is golondrina, which I think is a lot more fun to say.

The other very cool thing about cliff swallows is the little mud nests they make and reuse year after year. Some find the nests, and subsequent swallow poop that builds up around them, to be a nuisance. I disagree, though I have read there can be massive colonies of many thousands of birds, so I can see where some problems could arise.

We also see a lot of barn swallows hanging out with the cliffies. Barn swallows don’t have the white crown, but they have the fancier split tail. I’ve also seen the wire tailed swallows which are very fancy.

Swallows feed on flying insects by snatching them out of the air, which is why they jam around like little jet fighters. According to several sources I found online, their eyes are structurally similar to falcons and other raptors, giving swallows the excellent vision they need to catch bugs.

They are among the most nimble flyers in the world and seem to almost never touch the ground, preferring a branch or wire for perching when they do stop to take in some sun or preen their feathers.

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