Barn Swallow

(Hirundo rustica)

The Barn Swallow, with its distinctive long forked tail, makes it the easiest of North American swallows for bird watchers to identify.

Although in flight the feathers are swept back and form a single long point behind the bird.

You can always tell when June has arrived.

One sure sign of summer for anyone who enjoys bird watching, is this bird flying back and forth to any open barn, outbuilding or bridge in the country and becoming more common in suburbs as well.

They spend more time in the air then almost any other land bird.

Barn swallow


Measuring 5 1/2 to 7 inches in length with pointed wings and a deeply forked tail.

The bill is very short. Dark blue-black above with a dark rusty throat. The rest of the underparts are a buffy or pale rusty.


Swallows are generally monogamous, males mating with a single female. Although rare, males sometimes will pair with 2 females.

males that might attempt to copulate with her.

Single males will attempt to destroy eggs and kill off babies in an attempt to mate with the female.


Both the male and female swallow build the nest, usually in the morning and making up to 1,000 trips to collect mud.

Although this bird originally nested in caves and on rocky cliffs, the barn swallow was quick to take advantage of man-made structures. Today these birds nests only in association with man-made structures.

The nest is a cup of mud pellets lined with grass and feathers, built under eaves of buildings, resting on a beam or some projection in barns, under bridges, in culverts, or occasionally in a niche on a cliff.

The female lays 3 to 8 white eggs that are spotted with reddish brown. The eggs are incubated for 14 to 16 days and the young will leave the nest in 18 to 23 days.

Two broods a season may be attempted.

Paired males will aggressively defend the small area around the nest and guard his mate from other


Barn swallows feed on flying insects and feed on the wing. During the breeding season these birds will feed in pairs and fly at a low altitude, generally over fields, gardens and water.

During the non-breeding season they will feed in small, loosely formed flocks.

Farmers appreciate the Barn swallow as a natural insecticide. You may drive by any farm or rural area during the summer and watch the winged acrobats flying and swooping over fields and gardens as they are being mowed, cut or disked.


Bird watchers can look for these swallows in open country and marshes, especially near barns, outbuildings, bridges, and culverts.

An insect eating bird, These swallows migrate South of the border and well into South America.

Barn Swallow and Other Common Birds

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