Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
Family Hirundinidae

Barn swallows are acrobatic aerialists that are often seen swooping low to the ground and banking sharply over fields or lakes in their pursuit of flying insects.

Identifying Traits (both sexes)

  • Iridescent blue-green above, buffy brown below
  • Wings long and pointed
  • Dark red patches on throat and at base of bill
  • Short, pointed black bill
  • Deeply forked tail with visible white shafts above and below
  • Flies swiftly and with great agility
  • Juvenile:  Lacks red patches on face and throat, tail less deeply forked
  • Size: 18 cm (7.5”)
  • Weight: 20 g (0.7 oz)
   
 
  Adult  
       

Similar Species: No other eastern swift or swallow has a deeply forked tail like the barn swallow’s.

Voice: The barn swallow’s song is a rapid twitter occasionally broken by throaty chirps.  Its call is a soft fit-fit or kfit, kfit.  A harsh ee or keet may be sounded if a nest is threatened.

Habitat: The barn swallow is usually seen swooping erratically over farmlands, open fields, and marshy areas as it snaps up flying insects.  They often nest between crossbeams or under eaves in barns and other wooden structures.

Range: The barn swallow is abundant throughout the central and eastern United States from spring through summer, though it migrates to wintering grounds in South and Central America during the fall.

Interesting Facts: Despite their seemingly lighthearted aerial antics, barn swallows can be quite brutal.  An unmated male may kill the offspring of a mated pair of swallows in order to break up the pair and afford him a chance to mate with the female.

   
 

 

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