Baby swallows

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July 7 2007 1:46 PM

Baby swallows

When we moved into our house in Boulder, it had been empty for some while. During that time, a mated pair of barn swallows had built a nest over our front porch light. A couple of weeks after we moved in, we noticed tiny heads popping out of the nest. We watched as the parents would feed their chicks, and finally, a month after we moved in, all three were big enough to see over the brim of the nest.

baby swallows
Baby swallows. Adorable.

Photo by Phil Plait, used by permission

I got a surprise right after I took this image: all three chicks flew out of the nest! They are already expert fliers; swallows catch insects on the fly, and can turn rapidly in flight. This was proven to me by the parents, who are very protective of their chicks. When I stand near the nest, the parents fly circles above my head and dive in, only to veer away when they are a few inches from impact. It's pretty impressive. They also sit on the eave a few feet away and chirp madly when I'm there. It's supposed to scare me away, but it's so darned cute!

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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