BARN SWALLOW MAMA
By Sally Blanchard
Rare Hardwood Inlay Bird Sculpture of Barn Swallows by Sally Blanchard
One day many years ago when I lived in Wichita, Kansas my doorbell rang. When I opened the door, a neighborhood kid was standing there with a small birdcage. When I looked again, I saw a mud nest with 4 baby barn swallows in it. There was parakeet seed all over the bottom of the cage. The kid lived down the street and everyone knew that his father was an angry abusive alcoholic. Evidently, the man had gotten ticked off because the barn swallows were nesting on his front porch and pooping all over so he knocked the nest down with a broom. The boy and his mother scooped the nest up with the babies and put it in an old parakeet cage that they had. They threw in some seed and then decided that they should bring the birds to me because I was the local "bird woman." Except for one, the babies were fairly close to fledging but still needed intensive care.
I had just finished my basement with paneling and a new bathroom. I decided the bathroom would be a good place for the nest ... of course, I kept the toilet lid down. I talked to some people at the zoo and fixed an insect-like concoction for them to eat. I worked at home and had the time to go in several times a day to feed them with tweezers. They ate readily except for the one that looked the youngest. Unfortunately, the bird that bird died two days after they arrived at my home. A week or so later, I opened the door and two of the babies were sitting on the floor. When I walked in, they flew a few feet off the floor. The next day all three of them were flying so I opened the door so that they had the whole downstairs to fly around it. Once they started flying, I took small pieces of their food and threw them in the air. I felt silly doing this and was actually quite surprised when they actually started catching the bits of food I threw in the air. Several days of this and I thought that they would probably be OK if I let them go outside.
I had a finch aviary upstairs so I had a net and was able to catch my free-flying basement barn swallows and put them in a box. It was with great trepidation that I took them outside. I opened the box and all three of them flew into my yard. One flew out of sight while the other two landed on a wire at the back of the yard and sat there for a few minutes before they flew off. I saw barn swallows in and around my yard until it was time for them to head south. I like to think that my babies were among the ones I saw but there was no way for me to know for sure. The next summer a pair of barn swallows nested on my front porch for the first time. Again I hoped that one of them was one of my babies. I was delighted to have them nest on my porch and actually started going out the side door so I wouldn't disturb them. When I drove by the neighbor's house, I carefully checked out their front porch. I was pleased that the barn swallows didn't nest there again.