The most wide-ranging swallow in the world, the barn swallow is also the most familiar because of its habit of nesting near humans. This abundant bird once nested almost exclusively in caves and other rocky areas but today can be readily found in its namesake barns as well as on ledges, under eaves and in many other common locations.
Barn Swallow, Swallow
- Bill: Black, small, pointed
- Size: 7 inches long with 13-inch wingspan, forked tail
- Colors: Black, blue, rust, buff, white
- Markings: Genders are similar an iridescent dark blue head, back and wings contrasting with a rust forehead and rusty-brown throat bordered by a dark blue-black band that may be full or incomplete across the upper breast. Underparts may be white, buff or deep rusty colored – coloration varies by age and geography. The deeply forked tail has long streamers on adult birds and clearly shows a white spotted subterminal band in flight. Females are generally duller than males.
Habitat and Migration:
Barn swallows are common and widespread in areas with open grassland or fields, including meadows, savannahs, prairies and even artificial grassland such as large parks or golf courses, particularly near water. These birds breed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, which in North America includes all of the United States and Canada except the extreme northern regions. Barn swallows inhabit breeding ranges at similar latitudes in Europe and Asia. During the winter, these birds migrate to South America, sub-Saharan Africa, India, southeastern Asia, Indonesia and northern Australia. They may be found year-round in narrow corridors where their breeding and wintering ranges overlap.
Barn swallows are very vocal and use a high chittering call and rapid squeaking both when perched and in flight. Some birds also use a raspy rattle call.
Barn swallows are adept and agile fliers, thanks in part to their long, tapered wings and their forked tails, which they use as rudders to maneuver in the air. They feed close to the ground or water, and will drink in flight by scooping water into their lower mandibles. These birds will also bathe in flight by flying through sprinklers.
These are monogamous birds that engage in courtship preening and minor flight displays before mating. They are solitary nesters or may congregate in small colonies during the breeding season, and the birds will return to the same nesting sites for several years. Both parents incubate a clutch of 4-7 eggs for 13-17 days, and both will continue to feed the altricial hatchlings for 18-22 days until they are ready to leave the nest. Barn swallows frequently raise 2 broods per year.