Known as heralds of spring and beautiful, elegant flyers, swallows are among the most beloved of familiar birds. Because they return with the spring, swallows, as Angela Turner explains, have long been associated with the renewal of life, love, fidelity, and fertility, while their ability to travel incredible distances has given them associations with freedom and speed. That freedom, however, hasn't kept them from becoming familiar figures in towns and cities. They often seem to even seek out human company – for example, barn swallows are known for nesting in our buildings and purple martins in our back yards. Destruction of their natural habitat, however, has proved dangerous to some species of swallow, and recent years have seen some populations dwindling to the point of near-extinction. Turner outlines the reasons for these declines as part of her engaging account of the natural and cultural history of this beloved bird.
Angela Turner is managing editor of the journal Animal Behaviour, and she has written extensively on swallows and martins.