tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-5-copyright-kim-smithTo answer several reader’s questions regarding Tree Swallows on Cape Ann –

The birds that we see flocking up and forming a murmation over Gloucester’s downtown skyline are typically European Starlings, a species that was introduced to the U.S. from Europe at the turn of the previous century. The birds that are in the film that I posted yesterday, Dance of the Swallows, are Tree Swallows. They prefer more remote areas such as sand dunes, where the swallows find a wealth of insects.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-4-copyright-kim-smith

Insects comprise the bulk of their diet. Tree Swallows perch on branches, telephone wires, and in our area, commonly on Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) and other dune shrubs. Most birds cannot digest the waxy coating on Bayberries, but Tree Swallows are one of the few species that can. Bayberry fruits do not ripen until September and I wonder if when migrating through Cape Ann in August, the Tree Swallows are eating the insects on and around the plants, not the unripened fruits.


  1. These birds and migration are as you have stated the berries sort of like us humans with full kennel corn…Thanks for the background and beautiful shots! The black birds in starlings used to over take the big fields and pastures close to our farm swarms of them fall and spring! Our Chickens hens and geese would follow behind me when plowing the fields and disking turn the soil and they would eat the grubs and worms too easy pickings without and work! 🙂 Dave & Kim 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I look forward to your photographs every day – I spend time on Robbins Island in Essex- during the latter part of the summer, we have swallows lined up on the telephone pole lines and swooping over the marshes. i have always called them barn swallows – would they be one in the same? Again, just wonderful pictures of nature. Thank you so much.


  3. Hi Kim,

    I usually read GMG in the morning. I,too,look forward to your photos. Yesterday,though, your film of
    Tree Swallows was such a delightful way to begin the day! I mmediately forwarded GMG to my 3 grown
    Children.Son Ben wrote me later that he felt he was underwater at times as he watched the film!

    Thank you so much. I hope my garden club will invite you soon again. [Town and Country in Ipswich]

    Best to you,


  4. Hi Liz,

    Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows are two different species. It sounds from your description and based upon the time of year, that you are seeing Tree Swallows.

    Do you have any photos of them lined up on the phone lines? Look at the photo above, of the Tree Swallows on the phone line. You can clearly see the white underparts. Barn Swallows have rufous red underparts.

    I hope this answered your question and feel free to send a photo. Thank you for your kind words regarding my photos, so very much appreciated.


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