They are the fighter pilot jet jockeys of the K-Country bird world. Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) fly fast, turn on a dime, swish and swoop, and look really cool while doing it.
All that zipping and turning is to catch bugs in the air. YOU may hate mosquito season, but Barn Swallows lap it up. In fact, their nestlings hatch just as the season erupts. Barn Swallows can pick off 500 to 1,000 mosquitos per hour. They are incredibly good natural pest controllers.
Barn Swallows even drink water while zooming around. They actually drink on the fly by zipping in to a creek or pond and scooping up a bit of water as they rush by.
They build cup shaped nests out of mud, and set them up underneath any convenient overhang. Many, many kiosks and park buildings in K-Country have Barn Swallows nesting underneath them. Just some examples include Peter Lougheed Visitor & Discovery Centre, kiosks at Sibbald Pond and Highwood Pass, Mt. Engadine Lodge and the Spring Creek pedestrian bridge in Canmore. They need to nest under some kind of overhang and be out of the rain, because if exposed to water, the nests disintegrate. Get too close to the nests when the chicks have hatched and you’re sure to be dive bombed.
Of all the Swallow species, the Barn Swallow is easiest to identify. The pretty orange-tan chest on the males (the ladies are a cleaner white), dashing dark blue-back upper parts, plus that cool deeply forked “I can fly fast” tail are all obvious.
Next time you’re in a day use area in K-Country, take a peek under the kiosk roof, and keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating fliers.
Meet more of the cool critters of K-Country here!