Quiz Yourself on the Bank Swallow

Pack of #10 w seals

Each envelope in this set of 10 also includes a seal bearing a graphic silhouette of a bank swallow perched atop a branch. Click the image for details.

Warm weather has finally arrived in much of the country, and the higher temperatures are bringing a bonus: bank swallows! Even though it’s traditional to look for the first robin of springtime, in many places, swallows have been seen as the harbingers of the new season. In fact, an old proverb states, “One swallow does not a summer make.” But in some countries, the saying is a bit different—it’s actually worded, “One swallow doesn’t make a springtime.”

Whether you spot them in spring or summer, these acrobatic avians star on the new Bank Swallow stamped envelope, which was released in March. If you’d like to know more about these fascinating birds, try taking our bank swallow quiz. And just to add a twist, we’ll supply the answers. See if you can match each of the answers to the correct question. Ready?

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1Answers

1.  A foreclosure
2.  Four to five feet
3.  Riverbank
4.  As many as 89

Questions

A.  About how many other species of swallows can be found around the world?
B.  What is a flock of bank swallows called?
C.  What does the Latin name of the bank swallow, Riparia riparia, translate as?
(Hint: This is also one place that bank swallows like to nest).
D.  How long a burrow can a bank swallow dig?

The Bank Swallow Forever® stamped envelope is currently available at usps.com/stamps. Just search for “Bank Swallow.”

Answer key: 1=B,  2=D,  3=C,  4=A

Examining the Intricacies of Wildlife Stamp Art

New for 2013, the Bank Swallow Forever® stamped envelope features two illustrations by Matthew Frey—one of a perched bank swallow and one of the bird in flight. Both are amazingly detailed:

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1Frey’s vivid work also appears on the Purple Martin Forever® stamped envelope, which was issued in 2012 and features a gorgeous and acrobatic purple martin, the largest swallow in North America.

PurpleMartinForever-envelope-TC-BGv1Wildlife can be portrayed in many ways. These two stamped envelopes include highly realistic depictions of birds. But USPS has also embraced stylistic interpretations of animals. Issued in 2011, for example, the Save Vanishing Species™ First-Class semipostal stamp (which is still available!) features a bold graphic of an Amur tiger cub. And the one-cent Bobcat stamp issued in 2012 depicts a stylized bobcat. Both illustrations were made by Nancy Stahl. (You can see more of Stahl’s distinctive wildlife stamps on Beyond the Perf.)

Nancy Stahl pairNow that you’ve seen both approaches, which do you prefer?

Usher in Warmer Weather With New Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope

Are you ready for summer? We certainly are, and our new Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope—which was just issued today—proves it.

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1

The bank swallow (Riparia riparia) is the smallest swallow in North America. A slender bird about five inches long, it digs nesting burrows in riverbanks, gravel pits, and even highway cuts. Both males and females help dig the tunnel, first pecking out a shallow hole with their beaks, then using their feet to kick out the dirt. A sandbank riddled with holes, especially one near a river or lake, is likely to be the home of a colony of bank swallows.

An old proverb states, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer.” But when summer is in full swing, almost anywhere in the world, swallows can be seen darting and gliding through the air, doing what they do best: hunting insects on the wing. As the proverb makes clear, their long association with people makes them a watched-for backyard bird.

The Bank Swallow Forever® stamped envelope is being issued in a variety of formats. Its postage will always be equal to the value of the First-Class Mail one-ounce rate in effect at the time of use, even if the rate increases after purchase. To order, please visit usps.com/stamps and search for “Bank Swallow.”

Romance Is for the Birds

At first blush, birds might not seem romantic. But if you’ve ever called a cuddling couple “a pair of lovebirds,” you’re part of a long tradition of equating birds with romantic love. In fact, before Chaucer scored a literary hit during the Middle Ages with The Canterbury Tales, he wrote a long poem about birds gathering to choose their mates on Valentine’s Day. (Synopsis: They twitter on about finding the perfect partner.)

Although most birds don’t mate for life, a few species actually do form lifelong pair bonds, mating and raising chicks together year after year. If one of the pair dies, the other usually searches for a new mate. And if two young birds don’t manage to produce chicks after a few tries, they may undergo what biologists call a “bird divorce” and look for luckier partners.

Bird Love smallSo which bird species mate for life? Tufted puffins, the sea birds with a punk rock haircut that appear on a new 2013 stamp, make the list, as do mute swans and California condors. Bald eagles, the symbol of the United States, also couple up. Before choosing a mate, bald eagles practice a courtship ritual known as the “cartwheel display.” A male and female bald eagle grip each other’s talons and twirl through the air together, taking their bond for a spin before settling down for good.

Whooping cranes court in a more human way, performing elaborate dances together before making their choice. Appropriately enough, barn owls, known for their heart-shaped faces, also mate for life. Barn owls become especially attached to their mates, or to their human handlers if they don’t have a mate. If you’re in the mood for an unconventional love story this February, try picking up Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien, a memoir about a woman’s bond with the barn owl that she raises from a chick.

New Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope Takes Wing in 2013

In 2013, the smallest swallow in North America will perch on a new stamped envelope from the U.S. Postal Service.

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1

A familiar summer bird, the bank swallow (Riparia riparia) is the smallest swallow in North America. Like all swallows, bank swallows are agile songbirds that specialize in catching insects in midair. They dig nesting burrows in riverbanks, gravel pits, and even highway cuts. Both males and females help dig the tunnel, first pecking out a shallow hole with their beaks, and then using their feet to kick out the dirt. If you come across a sandbank riddled with holes, especially one near a river or lake, it’s likely to be home to a colony of bank swallows, which can have anywhere from ten to nearly 2,000 nests.

The Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope is being issued as a Forever® stamped envelope. Its postage will always be equal to the value of the First-Class Mail one-ounce rate in effect at the time of use, even if the rate increases after purchase. A release date has not yet been set.