Tree swallows: often our first spring arrivals

Published 9:20 am Monday, April 22, 2013

Over the past few years, Tree Swallows have been rapidly expanding their range into the foothills and mountains of North Carolina, and Tree Swallows have been reported nesting at FENCE, as well at other open country habitats throughout Polk County.

They breed throughout northern parts of North America from Alaska to Labrador and are obviously a very successful species as they continue to push south into the Appalachians. They winter in huge numbers along the coast of the Carolinas where, as well as feeding on insects, they have adapted to feed on the hard Wax Myrtle berries that dominate the coastal thickets.

Tree Swallows are easily identified by their glossy blue-green upperparts, snowy white breast and belly and short forked tail. They have a gently planing flight that’s quite different to that of other swallows.

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So if you see a beautiful green and white swallow over your farm or neighborhood pond, it’s more than likely a Tree Swallow. Look for a nearby cavity or even a Bluebird box. That is probably where it will be nesting and as many arrive early, they can take over the houses before the Bluebirds get around to nesting. Rather than evict the early arrivals, which is hardly ethical (or legal), it’s best to simply put up another bird-house as both species will happily nest in the same proximity.

Simon Thompson has lived in WNC for the past 20 years. He owns and operates his own birding tour company, Ventures Birding Tours.

He and Chris Jaquette also own and operate the Asheville Wild Birds Unlimited Store. For more information on any of the birding activities in the area, drop by the store or check his website at