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April 25th 2009

    Tree Swallows appear to mate without any pretence at romance.  They sit on the electric wire above the Bluebird box, loudly discuss the matter, and then it becomes necessary for the gardener to avert the eyes, find some other thing to do.  But they must enjoy it, because there is a frequency to their copulation that an older soul like mine begins to find alarming.

    Doves are constantly crooning.  They follow each other, sit next to each other.  Their call is soothing.  I imagine their nest, appointed nicely with pillows and towels and tooth brushes, along with a night light for the little ones.  Tree Swallows lie at the opposite extreme.  They camp out, never brush their teeth, drive unnecessarily fast cars and altogether have an enviable lifestyle unrestrained by the hard work of moderation. 

 

    

    However, when it comes to large white feathers, Tree Swallows are possessive and tenacious.   A Tree Swallow will spend hours herding a soft white feather into a nest.  Windy conditions appear only to serve as additional challenge.  They will chatter as they chase the feather.  Allow it to fall, then dive down to collect it again.  They do this with one eye on other Tree Swallows, and will pause in their work to chase another Tree Swallow whose proximity might suggest feather envy.  

    Tree Swallows chatter loudly and a great deal.  They always seem to be slightly irritated about one thing or another.  But in the matter of herding the white feather, it is the only time I have ever seen Tree Swallows overtly aggressive with each other

    It is an observable behavior.  Something people are persuaded to analyze in a sensible manner, following a theoretical device. Perhaps the feather is a form of Tree Swallow seduction.  A sort of "look what I can do for my children" to impress a mate.  But such a literal and well balanced analysis so robs the Tree Swallow of his character that I remain unimpressed by it.  The Tree Swallow lives for flying, everything else is a chore.

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