Tree Swallow

Tachycineta bicolor

A common swallow of marshes and open fields, the Tree Swallow is a ready inhabitant of nest boxes.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • Outside of the breeding season the Tree Swallow congregates into enormous flocks and night roosts, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset at a roost site, forming a dense cloud. They swirl around like a living tornado and as darkness approaches they then wheel low over the cattail marsh or grove of small trees. Large numbers drop down into the roost with each pass of the flock until the flock disappears.
  • The Tree Swallow uses many feathers from other birds in its nest. The feathers help keep the nestlings warm so they can grow faster. They help keep levels of ectoparasites, like mites, low too.
  • The Tree Swallow winters farther north than any other American swallow, and it returns to its nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. Its ability to use plant foods helps it survive periods of bad weather.


Adult Description

  • Small slender songbird.
  • White underneath and shiny blue-green on top.
  • Small bill.
  • Long wings.

Female Description

Yearling female brown on back with faint greenish sheen and some iridescent greenish blue feathers. Underparts white, sometimes with faint brown band across breast.

Immature Description

Juvenile sooty gray on back, without trace of blue. Underparts dull white. Dirty brown band across chest.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Tachycineta
Species: Tachycineta bicolor
Song a series of repeated whistles and twitters.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 15 cm (5.75 in)
  • Weight: 20 g (0.7 oz)
  • Size: Very Small (3 - 5 in)
  • Color Primary: Blue, White, Gray, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: White
  • Upperparts: Dark iridescent blue-green.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Dark iridescent blue-green.
  • Forehead Color: Dark iridescent blue-green.
  • Nape Color: Dark iridescent blue-green.
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Swift graceful flight with slow deep wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 32 cm (12.5 in)
  • Wing Shape: Tapered-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Notched Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Marshes, freshwater, Swamps, Grasslands
  • Breeding Type: Polygamous, Loose colonies
  • Breeding Population: Increasing, Abundant
  • Egg Color: White
  • Number of Eggs: 4 -6
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 16
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Lined with down., Dried grass and plant stems.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Hirondelle bicolore (French)
  • Golondrina invernal (Spanish)
  • Violet-Green Swallow similar, but with emerald-green back, white cheeks extending above the eye, and white sides of the rump.
  • Bank Swallow with distinct brown band across chest, not the dirty wash of a juvenile Tree Swallow.
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow always with brown throat.

Conservation Status

Increasing slightly across most of range.




Sources used to Construct this Page:

Open areas near water and fields, especially wooded swamps and shorelines.
  • Robertson, R. J., B. J. Stutchbury, and R. R. Cohen. Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). In The Birds of North America, No. 11 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Winkler, D. W. 1993. Use and importance of feathers as nest lining in Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Auk 110:29-36.
Flying insects and some berries.
Catches insects in flight.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar

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

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