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Quiz: How much do you know about swallows?

A sign that summer is almost here.

THE SOUNDTRACK OF a summer afternoon in many parts of Ireland is a distinctive warbling and chatty song ending in a mechanical burr, emanating from a fast-moving little bird.

The swallow is starting to arrive in many parts of Ireland right about now after spending the winter months in warmer climes. You’ll be able to see them scouting out nesting spots already, although people in some areas might still be anxiously watching the telephone lines, waiting for their arrival.

Their numbers have been falling in recent years, a story which can be replicated for most of Ireland’s most loved wildlife, but swallows are still a firm summer fixture.

Let’s test your knowledge of them – and a note for the sticklers out there: we’re talking about the barn swallow, rather than any of the other 90 or so species of Hirundinidae.

Is this bird a swallow?
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Yes, although that's a tree swallow and you literally just said this quiz would just be about the barn swallow.
No, that's a swift.
And this bird?
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Yes, that's a classic barn swallow. How could you mistake it for anything else?
No - although if we weren't sticking to barn swallows it would technically be a yes, because that's a house martin.
How about this fella?
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Ah! With its distinctive forked tail streamers and red face patch, this must surely be a swallow.
No, that's a sand martin.
Does one swallow a summer make?
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Yes
No
What do swallows eat?
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Ham
Mostly seeds and worms

Almost exclusively insects caught during flight
Very small birds (wren, goldcrest, etc), and declining numbers of these means declining numbers of swallows
What is thought to be responsible for the decline in swallow numbers in recent years?
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Habitat loss
Changes to farming practices

Hunting in some Mediterranean countries
Climate change

All of the above
Where do Irish swallows go during the winter?
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Southern Africa
Southern India

Southern Russia
... away?
When a female swallow is looking for a nice male swallow to settle down with (and they often mate for life), she might look at his bum. Why?
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To see if he has a nice bum. Obviously.
To see whether he flies with his legs tucked in (meaning he's a younger bird and thus a suitable mate) or out (meaning he's an older bird and less virulent).

To look at his white tail spots - the bigger and clearer the better, as it indicates the swallow hasn't been infected with a feather-eating parasite.
To see if his tail streamers cross over when perched - if they do, it indicates he's taken.
In North America, barn swallows often have a symbiotic relationship with a much larger bird of prey. The swallow will build a nest below this other bird's nest. Both birds have different diets so are not in competition. The larger bird will provide protection from predators, while the swallow's alarm call acts as an early warning system. What bird is it?
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The Great Child-Eating North American Swallow
The turkey vulture

The osprey
The prairie falcon

The ferruginous hawk
The Bald Eagle (God Bless The Troops)
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
10kph
60kph

90kph
African or European?
Answer all the questions to see your result!
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You scored out of !
You are the speed 11mps, which is the estimated airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are the barn swallow's weird best friend, the osprey
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are one of these grumpy baby swallows
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are... this swallow. Is that a swallow? I don't know.
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are this sand martin, which not a barn swallow, but you'll take what you're given
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are the fly this swallow is about to eat
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are... this swallow?
Share your result:
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You scored out of !
You are this fluffy-bellied swallow
Share your result:

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Nicky Ryan

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