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Barn Swallow: Characteristics and Habitat

This article was written by EB React on 26/05/2023

Description of the species

Barn swallow (Hirundininae)

a barn swallow on fly

Bird belonging to the Hirundinidae family, of which it constitutes the subfamily. This large family includes 13 different genera and a total of 108 distinct swallows. The swallow is a migratory bird that spends its winters in Africa and as soon as spring appears it migrates to Europe to reproduce. The return trip represents a distance that can exceed 10,000 km.


It has blue plumage on the top of the animal and beige-yellow on the ventral part. The throat, the cheeks and the edge of the beak are brick red in color, the female differs from the male by colors that are certainly similar, but much less lively and dazzling. The silhouette in general is quite thin for a bird, however, they are easily recognizable. Note that this species has a rather indented tail, tapering at both ends. Also distinguished and adorned with a small row of white spots visible in flight.


Size: 19 cm
Wingspan: 32 to 34.5 cm
Weight: between 16 to 24 g
Longevity: 16 years

Nesting and reproduction

Nesting period: April to July
Number of broods: 2-3
Number of eggs: 4-6 eggs 20 mm white with gray spots Hatching time: 13-15 days
1st flight: 17-24 days


The swallow is mainly present in town and in the countryside, the bird builds its nest unlike other species which choose trees, under a frame, or even the porch of an entrance , she also loves forgotten barns. Swallows have already been observed settling in underground car parks. Once the place has been duly chosen, she starts a family, raises her swallows, then prepares for her new departure for Africa. This migratory bird always returns to where it nested the previous year.


This species behaves identically to other aerial insectivores. Usually feeding at low altitude, between 7 and 8 meters above the cow floor. Extremely skilful bird despite a fairly slow flight, capable of catching prey right on the surface of the water. Its diet is mainly composed of fly, however the bird does not hesitate to catch aphids and other butterflies if the opportunity arises. Hunting generally takes place in pairs, especially during the nesting period, it often happens to see whole groups of several dozen individuals hunting.


Like most birds, the breeding period ends and makes birds nervous and aggressive. The swallow fiercely defends its nest against possible aggressors. It is distinguished by a rustic song, a greasy but nevertheless melodious warble. Swallow calls include alternating high pitched and lower pitched whistles that are often repeated. In case of danger, the bird gives a distinctive alarm call, consisting of a sharp whistle. The bird knows two main predators, cats, and birds of prey.


The male chooses the site where the nest is to be built, then, engages in a particular display by singing and rising high in the sky in order to attract a female. Once the couple is formed, the two birds will remain linked for life without however prohibiting extramarital matings.

The female lays an average of 5 eggs, their shell is white speckled with gray. Generally, the female broods the offspring alone, but the male sometimes takes over. After about fifteen days of incubation, the eggs finally hatch, revealing the swallows. Juveniles will reach their adult weight at 13 or 14 days, then will be able to leave the family nest 3 weeks later.

Now their parents will continue to feed them for a good week. The parents, very caring, share the education of their chicks, not hesitating to travel tens of kilometers daily to find the necessary food. The young must accumulate sufficient fat reserves, before being ready to migrate a few months later, and start the cycle again like their parents.

Habitat of Barn Swallows

The habitat of Barn Swallows is a testament to their adaptability and charm. These graceful birds are often found in a variety of settings, making them a common sight across North America. Their preferred nesting spots are often in close proximity to humans, with barns, sheds, and eaves of buildings being some of their favored locations. This proximity to human dwellings has earned them the name "Barn Swallow." 
Their habitat choice provides them with shelter and protection from predators, making these man-made structures ideal for nesting. The availability of open areas with plenty of flying insects for food is also a crucial factor in their habitat selection. You can spot them gracefully swooping through the air, catching insects on the wing. 
While their association with human structures is well-known, Barn Swallows are also found in more natural habitats, including open fields, meadows, and wetlands. They often build their cup-shaped nests in sheltered spots, and their adaptability allows them to thrive in a range of environments.

Importance of this bird in Ecosystems

Barn swallows play a pivotal role in ecosystems worldwide, and their importance cannot be overstated. These graceful birds, with their distinctive forked tails and agile flight, are expert insect hunters. They feast on a wide variety of flying insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and gnats. In doing so, barn swallows help control insect populations, which can otherwise become pests and vectors for diseases. 
Beyond their pest control prowess, barn swallows also contribute to pollination. As they flit from flower to flower, they transfer pollen, aiding in the fertilization of plants and ensuring the production of fruits and seeds. This process is essential for the growth of many plant species, which, in turn, sustains numerous other creatures within the ecosystem. 
Moreover, barn swallows serve as indicators of ecosystem health. Their presence can signal a balanced and thriving environment, while their absence may indicate disturbances or pollution. Conservation efforts to protect these birds indirectly benefit the broader ecosystem.


EB React / Editor

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