Tree swallows are migratory, spending their winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, but historically they nested in the western part of this country. Tree swallow nesting in the Tennessee Valley, and even our state, is a fairly recent occurrence.
According to Chuck Nicholson, author of the Atlas of Breeding Bird of Tennessee, published by UT Press, the first recorded tree swallow nest in Tennessee was discovered in 1918 at Reelfoot Lake. It wasn’t until 1968 that other nests were documented, this time in Anderson and Maury Counties. After that, nests have been reported every year and since the late 1980s, the nesting population has increased dramatically. Today, they’re fairly common throughout the state.
Tree swallows nest in empty cavities, hollow trees, bluebird boxes or even real or artificial gourds. Unlike their cousins, the colony-loving purple martins, the dark metallic blue backed tree swallows prefer to build their nests isolated from other swallows.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales