My Bantam Lake

Barn Swallow

Written on 06/10/2018

Hirundo rustica

When perched, the sparrow-sized Barn Swallow appears cone shaped, with a slightly flattened head, no visible neck, and broad shoulders that taper to long, pointed wings. The tail extends well beyond the wingtips and the long outer feathers give the tail a deep fork. Barn swallows typically measure 15 to 19 centimeters in length and 29 to 32 centimeters in wingspan. They have a steely blue back, winds, and tail, and reddish-brown to tawny underparts. THe blue crown and face contrast with the cinnamon-colored forehead and throat. White spots under the tail can be difficult to see except in flight. Males are more boldly colored than females. Juvenile individuals have darker, duller coloration and have no fork in their tails. Barn Swallows feed mid-flight, catching insects from just above the ground or water to heights of 100 feet or more. They fly with fluid wingbeats in bursts of straight flight, rarely gliding, and can execute quick, tight turns and dives . You can find these adaptable birds in open habitats from fields, parks, and roadway edges to marshes, meadows, ponds, and coastal waters. Their nests can be found under the eaves or inside of sheds, barns, bridges and other structures, and they live across most of North America. Barn Swallows are of low conservation concern.

Fun Facts: 

  • The Barn Swallow is the most abundant and widely distributed swallow species in the world.
  • Barn Swallows once nested in caves throughout North American, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.
  • The oldest known Barn Swallow in North America lived to be at least 10 years old.


Source: Barn Swallow Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.