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Swallows

species, swallow, north, tail, forked and bill

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SWALLOWS, a family (Hirundinids) of passerine birds which are the counterpart in this order of the swifts (q.v.). This family is distinguished by the small, flat, triangular bill which has its sides gradually compressed toward the tip and the deeply cleft mouth, the margins of which bear vety small bristles or none; the nostrils rounded at the base of the bill, either exposed or covered by a scale. The wings are long, while the tail is forked in nearly all spe cies and the outer feathers may be prolonged. The feet, although small and weak, are totally unlike those of the swifts, the hind toe being never versatile, the number of phalanges not different from that of ordinary birds and the squamation normal; sometimes the tarsi and toes are feathered. In striking contrast to the somber-hued swifts, many of the swallows are adorned with rich iridescent colors and some times the sexes differ. Anatomically the swal lows are truly passerine, but the fissirostral bill and mouth, together with their peculiar adapta tions to life awing, makes them one of the most dearly circumscribed and natural families of that order. Owing to the many interesting modifications of the type the genera are nu merous and many of them restricted in dis tribution; but the more generalized genera, like the typical Hirundo, are, like the family, cos mopolitan. About 100 species have been de scribed. Belonging to the North American fauna are 10 species representing no less than seven genera, most of which are peculiarly American. The barn-swallow (Hirundo or Chelidon erythrogaster) is abundant through out North America and is easily distinguished by the elongated outer tail-feathers, the lus trous steel-blue color of the upper parts and the ruddy breasts. (See BARN-SWALLOW.) The cliff or eaves swallow is colored much like the barn-swallow, but the tail is shorter and only slightly forked; it makes retort-shaped nests outside of barns, etc., under the eaves, as it formerly did on the faces of cliffs.

One of the swallows which retains its origi nal habits is the beautiful white-bellied or tree-swallow (Tochycineta bicolor). It is of

a fine lustrous green above, pure white below, with a tail only slightly more forked than in the last. The tree swallow is abundant in most parts of temperate North America, but espe cially so coastwise where great numbers nest in holes of trees from New Jersey northward. It is one of the first swallows to Move north ward in the spring and is frequently forced to retreat before a belated snowstorm or cold snap, being, therefore, one of the species to which the common saying, "one swallow does not make a summer," is especially applicable. In the West a related species, the violet-green swallow (T. thalassina), is found. Another conservative member of the family is the bank swallow, which is found in Europe as well as in America. Closely resembling it is the rough wing.

Biggest, handsomest, jolliest, most domestic of American swallows and ever ready to de fend his home is the purple martin (Progne subis), a familiar species throughout temperate North America, distinguished as a genus (Progne) by the strong bill with curved edges, by the moderately-sized forked tail, and by the strong and large feet. The sexes are quite dissimilar, the male being entirely blue black, the female and young, dull sooty gray on the breast. Except in the wilds where it con tinues to nest in hollow trees, it takes up its abode among the habitations of men. A com mon practice is to hang up gourds, properly hollowed, for its convenience in nest-building; and in the more settled parts considerable ex pense is sometimes incurred in preparing for it a suitable residence. The eggs are four to six in number and white. In the country it renders essential services by attacking and driving away crows, hawks, eagles and other large birds. Its note is loud and musical. The regularity with which this species arrives from the South is noteworthy. The western variety is distinct and another species enters Florida.

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