Though only a summer friend the swallow is among the most popular of birds in England. It arrives in April and is always sure of a hearty welcome, and when it leaves in September for its long journey across the sea no one would withhold from it a “God speed”. The swallow builds under the eaves of houses, always selecting dry and sheltered spots. Its flight is very rapid, and is a pretty sight to watch as it skims over the surface of the water, sometimes striking it with its wings as it darts hither and thither, snapping at the flies and insects which come within its reach. The marvellous flights of these birds when they migrate are among the many wonderful things of nature. Humboldt states that he saw a swallow alight on the rigging of his vessel when it was one hundred and twenty miles from land. How such tiny creatures can sustain such extended flights it is difficult to understand.
Swallows seem to understand the principle of co-operation and what the family is unable to do for itself the community seems always ready to undertake for it. Captain Brown tells of a pair of swallows who returning to their last year’s nest found it occupied by a robust English sparrow. The sparrow declined to give up the nest and the swallows were not strong enough to eject it, whereupon a council was called, as a result of which a large army of swallows proceeded to close up the entrance to the nest with clay, “leaving the sparrow to perish in the garrison it had so gallantly defended.” This happened at Strathendry, Bleachfield, in Fifeshire, on the banks of the Leven, and was witnessed by Mr. Gavan Inglis. But not only do the swallows cooperate for the purposes of war; Mr. Inglis was a witness of another effort of combination. It happened that a pair of swallows had built a nest in the corner of one of his windows, in which they had hatched five oflspring. The parent birds fell victims to a sportsman’s gun and Mr. Inglis contemplated an attempt to rear the family himself. This, however, proved unnecessary. In a very short time a number of swallows came and inspected the bereaved dwelling, apparently noting the condition of the house as well as the brood. A supply of food was immediately brought, and the next morning the kindly offices were renewed and thenceforward continued until the young were able to provide for themselves. Remarkable as these incidents are they are not singular, for both have been known to occur more than once.