Jun 14 2010
When does a bird look like a butterfly? When it appears to be nectaring in mud.
Over the weekend I stopped at the Rt.528 bridge at Moraine State Park to see a colony of unusual birds who nest underneath it. Cliff swallows hang their jug-shaped nests from the bridge structure so I go there to watch them pop in and out of the nests and wheel over the parking lot.
On Saturday they were busy building, carefully gluing mud daubs to the cement, then flying away for more. Where did they get the mud?
I found half the flock in a mud puddle, packed closely together, tiptoeing through the muck and holding their wings and tails erect to keep them clean. All their wings were quivering, just like butterflies. Are these “swallowtails?”
Chuck Tague saw them too and photographed their mudfest. In the process he documented a new behavior among cliff swallows — they mix plants in the mud — and wrote a blog about it. His descriptions are better than mine. See his blog here.
(photo by Chuck Tague)