Violet-green Swallow

Tachycineta thalassina

A beautiful swallow of open woodlands, the Violet-green Swallow is found only in the American West.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Violet-green Swallow is very similar to the Tree Swallow, both in appearance and ecology, and their ranges overlap. However, it is more closely related to two other swallows found in the Caribbean: the Golden and Bahama swallows.
  • A pair of Violet-green Swallows was observed assisting a pair of Western Bluebirds in raising young. The swallows guarded the nest and tended the bluebird nestlings, and after the bluebirds fledged, the swallows used the nest site for their own young.


  • Small slender songbird.
  • White underneath and shiny greenish bronze on top.
  • Face white.
  • Small bill.
  • Long wings.
Immature Description
Juvenile sooty gray on back, underparts washed with gray, face dusky. Yearling female greenish on back with brownish on crown and rump.
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 thalassina
  • Tachycineta thalassina brachyptera
  • Tachycineta thalassina lepida
  • Tachycineta thalassina thalassina
Call a chirping series of "chee-chee" notes. 

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 13-13 cm (5-5.25 in)
  • Weight: 17 g (0.6 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Green, White, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: White
  • Upperparts: Dark metallic green with purple rump.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dark sepia brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Metallic dark green
  • Forehead Color: Metallic dark green
  • Nape Color: Metallic dark green
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Swift graceful flight.
  • Wingspan Range: 28-30 cm (11-12 in)
  • Wing Shape: Tapered-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Notched Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Green-black
  • Under Tail: Green-black
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Grassland with scattered trees, Mountains
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: White
  • Number of Eggs: 4 - 6
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Grass and weed stems lined with feathers.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse down

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Hirondelle face blanche (French)
  • Golondrina verde-violeta (Spanish)
  • Tree Swallow similar, but with bluish green back, white on face not reaching above eye, and white flanks not reaching up onto rump.
  • Bank Swallow with distinct brown band across chest.
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow always with brown throat.

Conservation Status

Populations may be declining.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Breeds in open woodlands, especially at middle elevations
  • 1. Brown, C. R., A. M. Knott, and E. J. Damrose. 1992. Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina). In The Birds of North America, No. 14 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  • 2. Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I. Columbidae to Ploceidae . Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA.
  • 3. Whittingham, L. A., B. Slikas, D. W. Winkler, and F. H. Sheldon. 2002. Phylogeny of the tree swallow genus, Tachycineta (Aves: Hirundinidae), by Bayesian analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 22: 430-441.
Flying insects.
Catches insects in flight. May forage in large flocks.

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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