The swallow is known as 'the bird of freedom,'
which is derived from its hebrew name, deror. This reflects
the fact that one of the chief characteristics of the swallow is that it
cannot endure captivity, but is forced by instinct to pass from one country
to another for the purpose of keeping itself in a tolerably uniform
temperature, moving northwards as the spring ripens into summer, and southwards
as autumn begins to sink into winter. By its marvellous instinct the swallow
traces its way over vast distances, passing over hundreds of miles where
nothing but the sea or even the desert is beneath it, and yet at the appointed
season returning with unerring certainty to the spot where it was hatched.
It is thought that its body uses the earth's magneic field to guide it;
and the fact is certain that Swallows have been observed to leave the country
on their migration, and to return in the following year to the identical
nest from where they started.
Swallow in Flight
The swallow is remarkable for its swiftness
of flight. It has a forked tail and slender body to aid it in the
speed required to catch insects, its food source, whilst on the wing. The male can be distinguished from the female by the fact that the male swallow has even longer tail feathers than the female.
The Swallow seems in most countries to
have enjoyed the protection of man, and to have been allowed to build in
peace under his roof. It is rather curious that the presence of the bird
should so generally be thought to bring luck to a house. In some
parts of England a farmer would not dare to kill a Swallow or break down
its nest, simply because of the superstition that if he did so his cows
would fail to give their due supply of milk. The connection between the
milking of a cow in the field and the destruction of a swallow's nest in
the house is not very easy to see, but nevertheless such is the belief.
Whatever may be the origin of this superstition, whether it be derived
from some forgotten source, or whether it be the natural result of the
confiding nature of the bird, the Swallow enjoys at the present day the
protection of man, and builds freely in his houses, and even his places
of worship. Temples, Islamic mosques, and Christian churches are alike
inhabited by the Swallow, who seems to know her security, and often places
her nest where a child might reach it.
The bird does not, however, restrict itself
to the habitations of man, though it prefers them; and in those places
where no houses are to be found, and yet where insects are plentiful, it
takes possession of the clefts of rocks, and therein makes its nest. Many
instances are known where the Swallow has chosen the most extraordinary
places for its nest. It has been known to build year after year on the
frame of a picture, between the handles of a pair of shears hung on the
wall, on a lamp- bracket, in a table-drawer, on a door-knocker, and similar