Barn swallows usually return to the nest they used the previous year . These nests are made of mud, straw, feathers and sticks. Because these enchanting little birds are very untidy, we have attached little trays beneath the nests to keep the ground clean. They eat mostly flying insects and are responsible along with our bats for keeping our place bug free. Both members of the pair incubate the four to five eggs for 12 to 17 days. Once the birds hatch they make themselves very evident by begging noisily for food. They will leave the nest in 20 to 21 days and join their parents in search of food. These birds are protected since the killing of Barn Swallows for their feathers was one of the issues that led to the founding of the Audubon Society and the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These outlawed the killing of birds without the appropriate license and made it illegal to possess even a single feather of a protected bird. In the Fall the birds migrate to Central and South America for the winter. For a bird of such small size, the barn swallow undertakes hugely impressive, long-distance migration. Birds are generally at the northern breeding grounds between April and October,. The autumn southward migration takes several months travelling to Central and South America and as far south as northern Argentina. The timing of arrival back at the breeding grounds is dependant upon the severity of the weather, but the older males generally arrive first, with the females and younger males soon following . We always look forward to their return and are delighted when we see them swooping acrobatically in the air.