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Web cam features wild swallow chicks

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

More than 1,000 animals call Woodland Park Zoo’s exhibits home, but let’s not forget about all the native and migratory wildlife that use the zoo for nesting, feeding and breeding grounds. One of those wild animals—the barn swallow—is featured on our newest web cam.

A glimpse at the camera pointing at the nest in the Raptor Barn.

A clutch of wild barn swallows hatched the week of June 17 in a nest tucked into the rafters of the zoo’s Raptor Barn—one of four active swallow nests in the building. The migratory birds return each spring to occupy the nests, as well as others around zoo grounds including the Family Farm, to hatch and raise their chicks before the fledglings are ready to head south in the fall.

Close up of the newly hatched, hungry chicks in the nest.

The web cam streams 24/7 so you can get a glimpse of this young, wild family as the chicks hit their major milestones—growing flight feathers in June, taking their first tentative flights in July, and eventually fledging and moving on at summer’s end.

You may notice one of the parents looks like it’s wearing a small backpack. That backpack is actually a geolocator that allows scientists to study their movements and population trends.

A swallow fitted with a geolocator as part of the barn swallow study. 

For 10 years, University of Saskatchewan Professor Keith Hobson and his colleague Steven Van Wilgenburg have been banding the zoo’s annual swallow residents with small identifiers and geolocators to track their annual migration to South America, and examine the effects of habitat loss, climate change, and insecticide use, both here and in their wintering grounds. Since swallows have a keen ability to return to their nesting areas each spring, Woodland Park Zoo’s Raptor Barn is a regular home for breeding swallows and a consistent site for swallow research.

Researchers are studying the migration patterns of the swallow.

Barn swallows living in the northernmost part of their North American range are on the decline, and the study could provide key insight into the environmental factors that threaten their future.

Conservation of barn swallows and other native migratory birds has a positive impact on the Pacific Northwest’s ecological health. As great insect hunters, swallows are a beneficial bird to Northwestern backyards by providing natural pest control and keeping insect populations in balance. Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest program focuses on species restoration, habitat protection, science, and wildlife education that together address regional environmental issues. These strategies improve the sustainability of our wildlife populations, the health of our ecosystems, and the health of our communities.