Introduction to Tree Swallow Life History and our Nesting Guide:
  • Having your own Tree Swallow nest box or boxes gives you an unparalleled
    opportunity to witness the nesting cycle of these free-living songbirds up close.  
    You won't want to miss the chance to observe and learn about this crucial part
    of Tree Swallow life history.
  • You'll find your swallows are superb teachers: they really let you see what's
    happening.  We know your experiences with them will help you understand a
    great deal about songbird life and reproduction in general, and Tree Swallow
    nesting in particular, and to aid your learning we've created our Tree Swallow
    Life History Nesting Guide.  Photo below by Dr. Joel Eade of Kentucky.

  • Songbird reproductive cycles progress through a regular succession of stages,
    each with its own set of significant events, activities, and pressures.  The details
    differ by species, but the stages and issues apply to almost all.  
  • For our Tree Swallow Life History Nesting Guide we've identified a set of
    these common stages and issues (listed at left) and present them in the
    sequence in which they normally occur during the Tree Swallow nesting cycle.  
    Plus, we've included aspects of Tree Swallow life history, management, and
    conservation that occur or apply outside the nesting season as well.
  • The Nesting Guide topics are intended to complement and reinforce what you
    learn in the field.  They are not meant to replace your own observations, which
    are the real key to understanding the swallows and their world.  
  • We do hope you'll try to make watches each time you visit your project because,
    as the proverb says:

  • Making field watches isn't hard.  Just bring along an old lawn chair, and relax
    and observe for ten or fifteen minutes at several boxes in succession.  Take
    notes or use a behavior check list if you want, and be sure to think about what
    you see and speculate about causes.  And of course make a round of box
    checks before you leave.
  • We suggest you refer to the particular Nesting Guide topics that correspond to
    the current nesting stage at your project, both before project visits as
    preparation for field watches, and again afterward as you reflect on what you've
  • Of course the Nesting Guide can't prepare you for everything.  There's always
    the chance you'll witness something totally unexpected, such as the swallow
    below with an extremely rare genetic mutation in its pigment producing system.
    Photo below by Mark Deprez of New York.

  • We think the Tree Swallow Life History Nesting Guide can be a valuable
    learning tool in and of itself, and we've tried to be thorough and thought-
    provoking, but you may want to supplement the guide with other sources.
  • If you want a comprehensive reference, consider buying a companion print or
    online book such as "The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior," or better yet,
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Handbook of Bird Biology, 3rd. Ed."  
  • If you have a strong interest in anatomy and physiology of birds, "Manual of
    Ornithology" by Proctor and Lynch, combines excellent text with outstanding
  • If you want a really comprehensive learning experience, check out the Lab of
    Ornithology's many educational opportunities.  They could make a great
    complements to your project experiences.  Photo below by Michelle Lamberson
    of British Columbia.

Tree Swallow Life History
and Nesting Guide
Learn About Birds at Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects
"Hearing about something a hundred times
is not as good as seeing it once."