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Barn Swallow: Characteristics and Habitat

Description of the Barn Swallow

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.


The Barn Swallow 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 the Barn Swallow

As a bird specialist, I am captivated by the diverse habitats that different avian species call home. Today, let's delve into the habitat of the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), a fascinating bird known for its aerial acrobatics and distinctive forked tail. Join me on this exploration of the preferred abode of the Barn Swallow. 

Understanding the Habitat:

The Barn Swallow is an adaptable species that can be found in a variety of habitats across different continents. However, they do have certain preferences when it comes to their ideal dwelling place. Barn Swallows favor open areas with an abundant supply of flying insects, which serve as their primary food source. These areas can include meadows, grasslands, farmlands, and bodies of water such as lakes or rivers. 

Nesting Habits:

When it comes to nesting, the Barn Swallow displays a distinct preference for human-made structures, which offer them protection and support for their cup-shaped nests. Barns, stables, bridges, and even open sheds are all prime locations for Barn Swallows to construct their nests. These structures provide shelter from predators and adverse weather conditions, ensuring the safety and well-being of their young. 

Migration and Seasonal Habitat:

The Barn Swallow is a migratory bird, embarking on long-distance journeys between its breeding and wintering areas. During the breeding season, which typically occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, Barn Swallows can be found in temperate regions across Europe, Asia, and North America. These areas provide a wealth of insect life, meeting the dietary needs of these agile fliers. 
As autumn approaches, Barn Swallows gather in large flocks, preparing for their impressive migration to warmer climates in the Southern Hemisphere. They seek out areas with an abundant insect population and suitable roosting sites along their migratory routes. Wetlands, river valleys, and coastal regions serve as important stopover points during this awe-inspiring journey. 

Conservation Considerations:

To ensure the continued presence of the Barn Swallow in our ecosystems, it is vital to preserve and protect their preferred habitats. The loss of open spaces, destruction of nesting sites, and the use of pesticides can all have detrimental effects on Barn Swallow populations. Creating and maintaining suitable structures, such as nesting shelves or platforms, can provide alternative nesting opportunities, compensating for the decline in natural habitats. 


the Barn Swallow's habitat requirements are intimately tied to its need for open spaces, an abundance of flying insects, and human-made structures for nesting. By understanding and appreciating these preferences, we can contribute to the conservation of this remarkable species. Let us cherish and protect the habitats that the Barn Swallow calls home, ensuring the survival of these graceful aerial travelers for generations to come.

Importance of the Barn Swallow in Ecosystems

The Barn Swallow, with its distinctive forked tail and graceful aerial acrobatics, is not just a beautiful sight in the sky. This migratory bird plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems it inhabits. In this article, we will explore why the Barn Swallow is essential for our environment and the interconnected web of life it supports. 

1- The Dynamic Barn Swallow
The Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is a medium-sized bird known for its striking features. With its steel-blue back, red-brown throat, and long tail streamers, it stands out among other avian species. Males and females share similar appearances, making it challenging to differentiate between the sexes. However, keen observers can notice subtle variations. 

2- Habitat and Nesting Habits 

Barn Swallows are widely distributed across the globe, preferring open habitats such as meadows, fields, and wetlands. They construct cup-shaped nests made of mud and grass, typically attached to human-made structures like barns, sheds, and bridges. Their nest-building skills are remarkable, showcasing intricate architecture. 

3- Aerial Mastery and Feeding Habits 

These agile flyers spend a significant portion of their lives in the air, feeding on flying insects. Barn Swallows are highly skilled hunters, capable of capturing insects in mid-flight with astonishing precision. By consuming large quantities of mosquitoes, flies, and other pests, they contribute to the natural control of insect populations. 

4- Migratory Wonders
Barn Swallows undertake long-distance migrations, traveling thousands of miles each year between their breeding and wintering grounds. Their journey encompasses multiple continents, showcasing their adaptability and endurance. These migrations are not only awe-inspiring but also crucial for the dispersal of genetic material and maintaining ecological connections. 

5- Ecological Significance 

The Barn Swallow's significance goes beyond its aesthetic appeal. As voracious insectivores, they play a vital role in regulating insect populations, helping to prevent outbreaks of pest species. By reducing the prevalence of harmful insects, they indirectly support agricultural practices and human well-being. 
Additionally, Barn Swallows contribute to plant pollination. While foraging for insects, they inadvertently transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating the reproduction of various plant species. This symbiotic relationship ensures the diversity and resilience of plant communities. 


the Barn Swallow, with its elegance and ecological prowess, is an indispensable part of ecosystems worldwide. From controlling insect populations to aiding in pollination, their presence is vital for maintaining the delicate balance of nature. To ensure the conservation of Barn Swallow populations, it is crucial to protect their nesting sites, preserve their habitats, and promote awareness of their ecological importance.

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