Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family:    Hirundinidae
Size:    Length: 5.9 to 7.5 inches (15 to 19 cm)
Weight: 0.63 to 0.67 ounce (18 to 19 grams)
Diet: Mostly flying insects, such as flies, bees, moths, beetles, mosquitoes, as well as berries and seeds
Distribution: North and South America, Europe, Asia and South Africa
Young:  4 to 5 chicks, 1 to 2 times per year
Animal Predators:  Domestic cats, bobcats, owls, raccoons and foxes
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 9 years



·      Some swallows may have the largest migration route of any North American bird—11,000 km from Alaska to Argentina

·      Barn swallows spend a great quantity of time flying and have unusually strong flight muscles.

·      Barn swallows are welcome on most farms due to their appetite for insects.



Approximately the same size as sparrows, barn swallows can be distinguished from all other swallows by their deeply forked tail. Their upper body is iridescent blue and their underside is yellow brown. They have a reddish-brown throat, black bill and dark brown legs. Females are duller in colour than males and have shorter tails. 



Barn swallows are migratory birds, arriving in the north in mid-April and departing anytime from mid-August to December. They are rarely found in cities or towns, preferring to stay in open agricultural areas, especially near water,  where they can easily build a nest that will not be tampered with by humans, and where they have access to flying insects.


Feeding Habits

These birds eat mostly flying insects such as flies, bees, moths, beetles, mosquitoes, etc., but also sometimes supplement their diets with berries or seeds. 



Barn swallows are monogamous, pairing for life. Their cup-shaped nests are made of mud and grass, and lined with grass and feathers. Mating begins in spring and the female usually lays her first set of eggs in May. She sits on the eggs until they hatch, usually in about two weeks. Both parents bring food to the chicks, born naked and with closed eyes. In approximately three weeks they are able to fly, although they stay with their parents for a while longer. If they belong to an early brood in the season, they may help feed younger siblings.



These birds have become almost dependent on humans, building their nests in large, airy barns and on the sides of buildings or bridges. Originally, their nests were built in crevices on cliffs or in caves. They are sociable birds and have been known to build their nests only a few feet away from other swallows’ nests. Barn swallows stick together and can be seen sitting together on fences or wires, singing in chorus. They aggressively defend their territories from other species of birds.



The disappearance of farms and barns has led to a decline in the numbers of swallows in some areas, however, they are not considered a conservation concern. 



Swallow Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (1999)