Barn SwallowHirundo rustica

adult male
Gerard Bailey/VIREO
adult female
Greg Lasley/VIREO
juvenile
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult
Rob Curtis/VIREO
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow

Family

Description

5 3/4-7 3/4" (15-20 cm). Sparrow-sized. Our most familiar swallow, and the only one with a deeply forked tail. Upperparts dark steel-blue, underparts buff, throat and forehead rusty.

Voice

Constant liquid twittering and chattering.

Listen

song
begging young
chideep alarm calls
excited dawn song
other calls

Habitat

Agricultural land, suburban areas, marshes, lakeshores.

Range

Breeds from Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland and south through all of United States except southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and peninsular Florida. Winters in tropics. Also in Eurasia.

Discussion

The great majority of these birds now nest on or in buildings, but originally they used rocky ledges over streams and perhaps attached their nests to tree trunks in the shelter of branches (as do related species in Africa). Barn Swallows perform long migrations; some that breed in North America winter as far south as Argentina. Like other swallows, they migrate by day, often feeding as they travel. They are swift and graceful fliers, and it is estimated that they cover as much as 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) a day in quest of food for their young.

Nesting

4-6 brown-spotted white eggs in a solid cup of mud reinforced with grass, lined with feathers and soft plant material, and placed on a rafter in a building or on a sheltered ledge.

Similar Species

adult

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

5-5 3/4" (13-15 cm). Pale brown above, white below, with dingy brown throat. Bank Swallow is similar, but smaller, and has white throat and brown breast band.

adult male

Tree Swallow

5-6 1/4"(13-16 cm). Sparrow-sized. Metallic blue or blue-green above and clear white below.

adult male

Violet-green Swallow

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Dark, metallic, bronze-green upperparts; iridescent violet rump and tail, the latter slightly forked; white underparts.

adult

Cave Swallow

5 1/2" (14 cm). A stocky swallow with a square tail, steel-blue upperparts, buff throat and rump, and chestnut forehead.

adult

Cliff Swallow

5-6" (13-15 cm). Sparrow-sized. A stocky, square-tailed swallow with pale buff rump. Upperparts dull steel-blue; underparts buff-white; throat dark chestnut; forehead white.

adult male

Purple Martin

7-8 1/2" (18-22 cm). Our largest swallow. Adult male dark steel-blue. Female and immature male duller above, pale gray below.

adult

Bank Swallow

4 3/4-5 1/2" (12-14 cm). Sparrow-sized; our smallest swallow. Brown above, dull white below; breast crossed by distinct brown band; tail notched.

Vireo

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