A Cowboy’s Faith: Swallows take over barn – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Swallows take over barn

Barn swallows nest in barn stalls ceiling and rafters. Frank Buchman photo.

Barn swallows have returned in full force, sometimes seeming to completely take over the barn and ranch.

Uncertain when the unique birds started arriving this spring or when they left last year.

When barn swallows come, their presence is made most aware. As many as a dozen will swoop out of the barn nests and into the yard. They can give the feeling of wanting to attack but then glide right back up into the air.

The barn swallow is the most abundant and widely distributed swallow species in the world, according to bird specialists. It breeds throughout the Northern Hemisphere and winters in much of the Southern Hemisphere.

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Barn swallows once nested in caves throughout North America, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.

Horses are cautious of barn swallows initially and hesitate to move forward until becoming accustomed to the birds’ flight patterns.

Perhaps the little birds don’t feel secure around the horses either at first either. They can act territorial around their nests and will dive-bomb making alarm calls if feeling threatened. Fluffy the ranch cat was a target of one.

Nests really do make a mess on barn stall rafters and ceilings. Because it takes around two weeks for a pair to build a nest from mud, hair, and other materials, old nests are highly prized. So, there are old nests from several years with new ones added each year.

About 44 percent of all barn swallows will return to nest in the same area they nested in the previous year. If the birds decide to renovate their old nest, they begin by throwing out and replacing old nesting material. They then add more mud around the nest’s rim.

Uncertain exactly how many swallows there are in the barn and wonder if any of them have been here before.

There’s supposed to be an enormous benefit to having barn swallows. They are good at harvesting insects and reducing the number of harmful bugs like black widow spiders and biting flies.

Barn swallows can evidently be scared away if desired but there’s no intention of doing such a thing.

Reminded of Psalm 84.3: “The bird has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord my God.”


Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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