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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/White-bellied Swallow

98 White-bellied Swallow.jpg


Hirundo bicolor, Vieill.

PLATE XCVIII. Male and Female.

This Swallow often spends the winter months in the State of Louisiana, resorting principally to the neighbourhood of the marshes that border the lakes of Pont Chartrain and those of Bayou St John, near the city of New Orleans, an account of which I have already given when speaking of the Republican Swallow. At the beginning of spring, it spreads widely over the country, and may be observed skimming over the streets of our cities, as well as along the meadows in their neighbourhood.

Its flight is easy, continued, and capable of being greatly protracted. It is seen sailing, circling, turning, and winding in all directions, during the greater part of the day. Like all other Swallows, it feeds on the wing, unceasingly pursuing insects of various kinds, and in seizing them producing a snapping noise which may be heard at some distance. So quarrelsome is this Swallow, that it is almost continually fighting with its own species. Yet they remain in flocks at all seasons, and many pairs are often seen to breed within a short distance of each other. It also attacks the House Swallow, and frequently takes possession of its nest.

It generally prefers the hollow of a tree for its nest, which is of a globular form, composed of slender grasses, and abundantly lined with feathers of various kinds. The eggs are from four to six, of a pure white colour, strongly tinged with blush, occasioned by the transparency of the shell, and are deposited about the end of May. It breeds twice during the season.

No sooner have the young of the second brood acquired their full power of flight, than parents and offspring assemble in large flocks, and resort to the roofs of houses, the tops of decayed trees, or the sandy beaches of our rivers, from whence they take their departure for the south. They fly in a close body, and thus continue their journey, until they reach the places adapted for their winter residence, when they again resume by day the habits which they exhibit during their summer sojourn in the Middle and Northern States, but collect at night and resort to the sedges and tall plants of the marshes.

Hirundo bicolor, Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 65.

Green-blue or White-bellied Swallow, Hirundo viridis, Wils. Amer. Ornith. voL iii. p. 44. Pl. 38. fig. 3.

Adult Male. Plate XCVIII. Fig. 1.

Bill short, feeble, much depressed and very broad at the base, compressed at the tip; upper mandible slightly arched in its dorsal outline; gap as wide as the head, and extending to beneath the eye. Nostrils basal, lateral, roundish. Head large, flattened above. Neck short. Body rather slender. Feet very short and feeble; tarsus and toes scutellate anteriorly; lateral toes nearly equal, the outer united to the second joint; claws short, weak, arched.

Plumage silky, shining, and blended. Wings very long, acute, the first quill longest. Tail of ordinary length, deeply emarginate, of twelve rounded feathers.

The general colour of the upper parts is steel-blue with green reflections. Quills and tail-feathers brownish-black. The under parts are white.

Length 5¼ inches, extent of wings 10; bill along the back ⅓, along the gap ⅝; tarsus ⅜, middle toe ⅝.

Adult Female. Plate XCVIII. Fig. 2.

The female resembles the male in size and colour.