"Those Itchy Red Bumps"
Anyone spending much time in the back country of Utah knows what it is like to run into a swarm of mosquitoes. Sometimes you don’t even have to leave town, because swarms of mosquitoes happen right here in St. George!
Good News: Mosquito consuming Cliff Swallows have expanded their range considerably, exploiting many new areas. They traditionally nested only in the cliffs on the Columbia Plateau, but now, taking advantage of man-made nesting sites, their numbers have exploded. Cliff Swallows now nest under bridges, on dams, and eves of buildings... all supplied by man. What a clever nest they build. Birds of both sexes begin by dabbing a circle of mud onto a wall and then adding mud-balls from the bottom of the rim up and out, eventually forming a jug-shaped nest. Sometimes they nest solitarily, and sometimes they nest together in a colony of hundreds and even thousands. That’s good for us, because they eat the things that make those itchy, red bumps!
I love the Cliff Swallows. A favorite pastime is to watch them as they hunt those vicious little blood-suckers (mosquitoes). As they hunt in the air, they flash, they twist this way, that way, and then scoop up the prey.... never to be seen again. A true friend of man!
The Cliff Swallow is unique that when the hunt for food is unsuccessful, it will watch its neighbors in the colony and follow one to find food. When the hunt is successful, the same Cliff Swallow will give a feeding cry to alert others that food is found. Watching the sky at dusk, you could see flocks of Swallows converging in one area, to feed upon mosquitoes, and in other areas... no Swallows in sight. The Cliff Swallow’s versatility of sweeping mosquitoes from the sky keeps all those creatures from hunting my blood.
The artistry of Brenda Rusnell, in detailing the beauty of this aerial hunter helps to clarify in our minds how to identify the Cliff Swallow. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.
Interested in birds? Red Cliff Audubon meetings will begin September 10th at 7:00 p.m. at the Tonaquint Nature Center. The public is welcome. No charge. Any questions about Swallows, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.