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Old Thursday 10th August 2017, 17:43   #1
ColinD
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House martins landing in a bush to feed

Anybody seen anything like this before, a flock of 200+ hirundines, mainly house martins but also a few swallows, perching on wires and then dropping into a bush to feed on insects. I watched them doing this for about 30 minutes at Nata, Cyprus today.
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Old Thursday 10th August 2017, 20:06   #2
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Wow! No, never seen anything like this before!
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Old Thursday 10th August 2017, 20:26   #3
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Me neither - that's remarkable indeed!
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Old Thursday 10th August 2017, 20:42   #4
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What kind of insects, could you tell?
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 06:15   #5
ColinD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fugl View Post
What kind of insects, could you tell?
I'm affraid I couldn't tell, but nothing very big from a scan over with the binoculars. Aphid types perhaps. Interestingly, the birds only landed in the one bush, I didn't see them land in any other bush.
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 16:08   #6
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This is fairly common behavior among swallows here in Pennsylvania at this time of the year. The birds a forming large flocks prior to migration. It isn't unusual to see flocks of several thousand birds.

This picture shows just a small percentage of the Tree Swallows feeding over the Susquehanna River in the morning a few years ago.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/762057...etaken-public/
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 17:11   #7
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This is fairly common behavior among swallows here in Pennsylvania at this time of the year. The birds a forming large flocks prior to migration. It isn't unusual to see flocks of several thousand birds.

This picture shows just a small percentage of the Tree Swallows feeding over the Susquehanna River in the morning a few years ago.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/762057...etaken-public/
Not unusual to see them feeding on insects in bushes?
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 17:14   #8
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Not unusual to see them feeding on insects in bushes?
No, not at all, particularly in the early morning.
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 18:10   #9
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No, not at all, particularly in the early morning.
Very interesting. Here's what BNA-online has to say about Tree Swallow feeding behavior--

"Pursue individual prey items in the air, using abrupt turns, sometimes converging in large numbers on concentrated insects. . .. Ability to find and use local concentrations of insects may be key for survival of returning birds in early spring when food is scarce (McCarty 1997). In flight, can pick prey items off surface of water. . .. Occasionally feed on ground or ice. . . and very rarely glean insects off vertical surfaces. . .. Rarely, may flutter against vegetation, putting swarms of insects into the air. . ..Also eat bayberries (wax myrtle, Myrica sp.) and other vegetable matter. . ., especially during the non-breeding season."

From what the OP has just said, the House Martins were apparently picking their prey directly off the leaves rather than flushing them and catching them in the air as the BNA account claims Tree Swallows sometimes do.
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 20:49   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fugl View Post
Very interesting. Here's what BNA-online has to say about Tree Swallow feeding behavior--

"Pursue individual prey items in the air, using abrupt turns, sometimes converging in large numbers on concentrated insects. . .. Ability to find and use local concentrations of insects may be key for survival of returning birds in early spring when food is scarce (McCarty 1997). In flight, can pick prey items off surface of water. . .. Occasionally feed on ground or ice. . . and very rarely glean insects off vertical surfaces. . .. Rarely, may flutter against vegetation, putting swarms of insects into the air. . ..Also eat bayberries (wax myrtle, Myrica sp.) and other vegetable matter. . ., especially during the non-breeding season."

From what the OP has just said, the House Martins were apparently picking their prey directly off the leaves rather than flushing them and catching them in the air as the BNA account claims Tree Swallows sometimes do.
Yes the house martins were landing in the tree and picking the insects off the branches and leaves, as you can see in the original photos and in this one. Out of interest, the "Handbook to the swallows and martins of the world" (Turner/ Rose), Poyser 1989 states that "Exceptionally, they [house martins] will perch on trees and walls to pick up insects".

It's exceptional enough that in 40 years birding I've never seen it happen before.
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Old Friday 11th August 2017, 20:58   #11
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Yes the house martins were landing in the tree and picking the insects off the branches and leaves, as you can see in the original photos and in this one. Out of interest, the "Handbook to the swallows and martins of the world" (Turner/ Rose), Poyser 1989 states that "Exceptionally, they [house martins] will perch on trees and walls to pick up insects".
Thanks for the new photo which eliminates all doubt as to what the martins were up to. As you've already suggested, it looks like aphids were one of the targets at least..
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 09:44   #12
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Two things spring to mind -

Perhaps they only realised the food source was there because they were resting on the wires above. I guess one or two birds alighting in the vegetation and the rest followed ... ?

Maybe it does occur naturally (but rarely) and unseen as martins and swallows roost in reedbeds/vegetation. At dusk/early morning presumably there may be occasions when swarming/emerging insects are also present on the vegetation and birds would sometimes pick them off the leaves. (Being inaccessible too us/poor light would be rarely seen).
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 12:58   #13
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Not seen the feeding behaviour but have commonly seen big flocks of House Martins on wires like this in Southern Africa.


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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 13:47   #14
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Never seen House Martins in bushes like that. Seen mixed flocks of Sand and House Martins settle on shallow slate roofs in warm weather before where there were plenty of flies etc. Filmed the clip below at Start Point in Devon last September. Pretty sure there was no food source, more just gathering before trying to move on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NPlITkb8vY
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 15:32   #15
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I have noticed our local house martins drop in on a tree en masse. It appears to be the young of the year, especially when at the time when they begin flocking on telegraph wires. It seems no more than a once a year thing and I've seen it perhaps 10 times in the past 20 years. Last year they all descended onto a small rowan tree in my front garden - around 50 birds. A year or two ago it was the top branches of a nearby oak. I've not noticed them picking off insects (although they might have been), it seems more of a crazy social aberration especially as they often choose unsuitable tips of the foliage and struggle for balance. It's always just one tree and after a 15 minute spell of mayhem, they all fly off and continue feeding as normal.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 16:49   #16
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I have noticed our local house martins drop in on a tree en masse. It appears to be the young of the year, especially when at the time when they begin flocking on telegraph wires. It seems no more than a once a year thing and I've seen it perhaps 10 times in the past 20 years. Last year they all descended onto a small rowan tree in my front garden - around 50 birds. A year or two ago it was the top branches of a nearby oak. I've not noticed them picking off insects (although they might have been), it seems more of a crazy social aberration especially as they often choose unsuitable tips of the foliage and struggle for balance. It's always just one tree and after a 15 minute spell of mayhem, they all fly off and continue feeding as normal.
= mass identity crisis? They all thought they wanted to be Blue Tits?
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 17:05   #17
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= mass identity crisis? They all thought they wanted to be Blue Tits?
The behaviour in the pics reminds me more of Waxwings than anything else
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