Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

A familiar inhabitant of barns and other outbuildings, the Barn Swallow is easily recognized by its long forked tail. It was originally a cave breeder, but now the swallow nests almost exclusively on man-made structures.

Interesting Information

  • The Barn Swallow is the most abundant and widely distributed swallow species in the world. It breeds throughout the northern hemisphere and winters in much of the southern hemisphere.

  • The long tail of a Barn Swallow may indicate the quality of the individual bird. Females prefer to mate with males that have the longest and most symmetrical tails.

  • An unmated male Barn Swallow may kill the nestlings of a nesting pair. His actions often succeed in breaking up the pair and afford him the opportunity to mate with the female.

  • Female Barn Swallows favor males that have a darker reddish chest color.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 17-19 cm (6.75-7.5 in)

  • Weight: 17 g (0.6 oz)

  • Wingspan Range: 32-34 cm (12.5-13.5 in)

Small slender songbird.

Tail long and forked.

Upperparts steely iridescent blue.

Underparts rufous.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Juvenile looks similar to adult, but tail shorter and less forked. Underparts paler.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Found in many habitats with open areas for foraging and structures for nesting, including agricultural areas, cities, and along highways. Needs mud for nest building.


Catches insects in flight, often low to the ground.


Flying insects.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Hirundo
Species: Hirundo rustica
    Subspecies: Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  Hirundo rustica gutturalis
  Hirundo rustica rustica

Similar Species

  • Only North American swallow with a long forked tail.

  • Cliff Swallow can be confused with short-tailed juvenile Barn Swallow. Cliff Swallow has a square tail, a pale collar around the nape, a pale rump, and is less rusty.

Bird Sound

Song: a twittery series of squeaky notes, often with dry rattle in the middle.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution