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Violet-green Migration

Violet-green Swallows by Harry FullerBy Harry Fuller, Klamath Bird Observatory Board President

25 August, 2013

Our only strictly western swallow in America is moving south, as it does each year. An early arrival each winter (many show up here in southern Oregon  in March with the Tree Swallows), the Violet-green is also an early departer.

The Violet-green is closely related to the Tree Swallow. Both Tree and Violet-greens have brilliant white bellies at all ages, although the Violet-green has more white on its face compared to the Tree. Both are cavity nesters, preferring trees to bridges or chimneys. The Tree Swallow and Violet-green are aggressive about using next boxes, often driving out bluebirds or other cavity nesters. The Violet-green Swallow nests along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to central Mexico and as far east as the Front Range of the Rockies. The Violet-green does not use mud in its nest like Cliff and Barn Swallows.

These birds were gathered on wires along the road into Emigrant Lake Recreation Area. They flew insect-gathering sorties over the hay fields and along the cattail clogged roadside.

All our Violet-green and most of our Tree Swallows winter in Central America, north of Panama. All the other species in their genus are in Latin America year-round. The Tree Swallow is America’s hardiest swallow species, wintering in modest numbers in California and along the Gulf Coast. Each winter there are Tree swallow sightings around the western, especially coastal, parts of Oregon. These may be birds that have come down from much farther north.

A clear view of a Violet-green Swallow in good light will confirm that this pretty bird has been well-named.

A version of this article first appeared on Harry Fuller’s Towheeblog.