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?

Four Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Bank Swallow

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1Just a couple weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamped envelope featuring the bank swallow. When summer is in full swing, bank swallows can be seen darting and gliding through the air, doing what they do best: hunting insects on the wing. Here are four things you may not know about this interesting little bird:

  • The bank swallow can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • 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. In fact, in Europe, it’s known as the sand martin.
  • At about 5 inches long, it’s the smallest swallow in North America. According to the National Audobon Society, on average it has a 13-inch wingspan. That’s pretty big for such a small bird!
  • Every year, the little bird migrates a long way. According to the National Audobon Society, “the Bank Swallow migrates long distances with flocks of other swallows during the day, moving from South America up the isthmus of Central America. Migration ranges from March to late May. Fall migration begins as soon as breeding ends and peaks early in the season.”

Would you like to learn more about the bank swallow? Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site. Also, the National Audobon Society is an excellent resource.

The Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope is currently available in our online store.

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.”