Longitudinal Study of Tree Swallows
Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are the most widely distributed of the Tachycineta species, extending from northern Alaska and Canada to the southern United States. They are semi-colonial, secondary cavity nesters, primarily aerial insectivores, and migratory throughout most of their range. Tree swallows are a widely used model organism for avian ecologists and environmental physiologists because their life history lends itself to longterm study. They can be readily and repeatedly trapped at nests, and losses to nest predators are low. Adults return to previous breeding sites with high fidelity, so individuals marked during or after their first reproductive season can be reliably captured in subsequent years, and return rate to the breeding area can be used as an index of survival. Swallows using nest boxes are extraordinarily resistant to the disturbance of handling, allowing repeated captures to obtain measurements, blood samples, etc., both within and between breeding seasons.