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Feathers for Bird Nests – Fun With Swallows

Watching swallows grab feathers out of the air provides hours of off-line entertainment.

By providing the right kind of feathers in the right way, you can easily attract swallows. Every spring, swallows search for the best soft materials to improve the comfort and warmth of their nests. Soft and downy feathers, a finger-length long are the perfect size and swallows get excited when they find a good source.

Air-born feathers are best although swallows will sometimes land to pick up a feather. But they usually grab feathers off the ground while flying since these birds are not efficient hoppers or walkers. If you scatter feathers on the ground for the birds, just make sure that the area is even, free from obstructions, and has plenty of space for the birds to make their approach and exit flights Swallows are very cautious when they pick feathers off the ground in flight. Several practice approaches serve to help the bird to know if a feather grab is safe. This makes sense as they are zooming down beak-first at 20 miles an hour to pick up a feather. They are safer grabbing feathers in the air.

Here is the most fun part: launch feathers into the air from a ten-foot, small-diameter plastic pipe. Place a feather at one end and blow it into the air from the other end like a dart gun. After a few days, the swallows catch on that airborne feathers are being offered when they see the pipe raised. Time your launches so the wind is right and the swallows are nearby. With the correct wind, launching feathers by hand works, but usually the plumes drift quickly and disappointingly to the ground.

The swallow’s mouths make a small snap sound when closing or attempting to close on a feather.

The amazing aerialists must learn that the best way to fly with a big feather is to carry it curved under the body, shaft-first. So feathers are often dropped mid-air to change to the best position. When this happens the feather may get seized by another swallow and a chase is on.

Barnyard fowl are a good source of feathers. If you know a farm with chickens, geese, or turkeys, have them save the feathers. Then take care of the feathers. Barnyard birds may have parasites like mites. Place future swallow nest feathers in a freezer for 48 hours, remove for a couple of days and freeze again. This kills adult parasites the first freeze, lets any remaining eggs hatch when the feathers are out of the freezer, and kills them during the second freeze.

By springtime, loaded with feathers you are ready perform a good deed for the swallows. In the meantime, enjoy watching these birds perform their flying feats of feather catching.

You can also set up your camera and snap away for remarkable mid-air feather catching photographs, but this is for another article.