Monday 9 January 2012


My fascination with Junior Non Fiction continues. Of course, I'm quite interested in birds so that helps too. We have swallows in Australia, but the Barn Swallow that is the star of this book, sadly doesn't live here. Although Barn Swallows born in Russia and China may spend their winter enjoying the warmth of far-Northern tropical Australia.

I wondered about the cover photo when I borrowed this book from the library, but didn't think all that much of it- til I read the book. Barn Swallows are really quite extraordinary creatures. They only weigh about 20 grams, yet can travel hundreds of kilometres in a day! They eat insects which they mainly catch whilst in flight- the distinctive forked shape of their tail helps them turn or brake in flight to catch delicious flies.

The female swallow lays up to six eggs at a time. Whilst incubating them she turns them gently with her beak to help them mature properly. While feeding their incessantly hungry chicks the parents will make up to 400 trips to and from the nest each and every day. Little wonder they need to go to Africa for a break!

Pity the poor swallows born in Alaska or Scandinavia!

In the Northern autumn the swallows will feed and build up reserves for their long flight south. We're told they can fly up to 965 kilometres in a day, and eat up to 6,000 insects in a day to prepare for their journey. Which seems near impossible. Their migratory journey can take 3 months to complete! It's extraordinary to think of a 20 gram bird flying for months to get to Africa, to spend a few months, and then to journey back, and then do it every year of their life. Which is why the cover shot is amazing when you understand it- these amazing little birds even drink on the fly.

Of course you can't think about European or African swallows for too long before thinking about coconuts.


Kath Lockett said...

Incredible to think of what such tiny creatures of hollow bones and mere feathers are capable of....

... love the ending clip too!

GatheringBooks said...

Nice review - will be sure to check this out in our libraries here. :) Thanks for sharing!

Satia said...

Oh dear. Just yesterday I was thinking to myself that I haven't watched MPatHG in ages. Now I read this and the first thing I thought of, before I reached the end of the post, is "I should watch the dvd today" and then I saw that last bit and I realized I better act soon before someone or something drops a coconut on my head.

bermudaonion said...

I should probably read junior non fiction too. It's probably more at my level. This book sounds fascinating!!