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Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
Anatomy of a Bird

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.

Range Map My Photos Of This Bird
Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm
© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cool Facts Taxonomic Hierarchy Illustration
  • 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.
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
Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley

Description

Sound

Breeding

Adult Description

  • Small slender songbird.
  • Tail long and forked.
  • Upperparts steely iridescent blue.
  • Underparts rufous.

Immature Description

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

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

  • Breeding Location: Grassland with scattered trees, Grasslands, Desert, semi
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Small colonies
  • Breeding Population: Widespread, Abundant
  • Egg Color: White with brown markings
  • Number of Eggs: 4 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 17
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Clay or mud, dried stems, grasses, and straw with thick lining of horsehair, down, and feathers.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless, with tufts of down.
Body Head Flight
  • Length Range: 17-19 cm (6.75-7.5 in)
  • Weight: 17 g (0.6 oz)
  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Blue, Orange, Black, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: Red-buff
  • Upperparts: Dark Blue
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark brown to black.
  • Head Pattern: Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Dark Blue
  • Forehead Color: Red-brown
  • Nape Color: Dark blue with thin white collar on back of neck.
  • Throat Color: Red-brown
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Graceful., Swift flight with deep wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 32-34 cm (12.5-13.5 in)
  • Wing Shape: Tapered-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Forked Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black with white spots.
  • Under Tail: Black with white spots.
  • Leg Color: Black.

Behavior

Food Habitat
Catches insects in flight, often low to the ground. Flying insects. 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.
Other Names Similar Species Conservation Status
  • Hirondelle des granges, Hirondelle rustique, Hirondelle de cheminée (French)
  • Golondrina ranchera, Golondrina tijerela (Spanish)
  • 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.
The Barn Swallow has benefited greatly from human activity. Artificial structures have allowed it to move into new areas and nest in higher densities than ever before. As a result, populations are much greater than they were before European settlement of North America. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds!
Video Sources Used To Construct This Page:

 

  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 1999. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). In The Birds of North America, No. 452 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.
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