Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)

Bank Swallow

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Riparia riparia | [UK] Bank Swallow | [FR] Hirondelle de rivage | [DE] Uferschwalbe | [ES] Avion Zapador | [IT] Topino comune | [NL] Oeverzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Brown above, dull white below; breast crossed by distinct brown band; tail notched. Northern Rough-winged Swallow is warmer brown, with dusky throat and without brown breast band.

No sound available

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 12 cm size max.: 13 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 16 days
fledging min.: 21 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


It has a wide range in summer, embracing practically the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean countries, part of northern Asia and also North America, where it is called Bank Swallow. It winters in eastern and southern Africa, South America and South Asia


Usually found near water, Bank Swallows are closely associated with sandy, vertical banks along rivers and lakes or where a bank has been created by human excavation. Bank Swallows forage over water or open fields.


Nest holes are not recycled. Each year the male begins to excavate a new hole and displays to females at the entrance to the hole. After the pair is formed both work at the excavation. Each member of the pair defends the nest site against competitors of its own sex. The tunnel slopes slightly upward (keeping it dry) and is 1 meter long (long enough so that only a determined predator can dig it out). At the end is a slightly enlarged nest chamber which is lined with grass. Eggs are laid in mid to late May. Interestingly, all of the birds in a colony tend to synchronize the date on which they lay their eggs. This probably has the advantage of reducing the amount of time there are eggs and young in the colony and helps minimize the amount of nest predation. Raccoons are a major natural predator. The female lays an egg each day, usually a total of 3 to 6 eggs. Incubation, which lasts a total of about 14 days, begins only with the next-to-last egg. This makes the hatching fairly simultaneous and means that all the nestlings are about the same size and equally able to compete for the food the parents bring. Both parents feed the nestlings. The nestling period lasts about three weeks, a long time for such a small bird. Young swallows must be able to fly well and hunt for themselves when they leave the nest so they need the extra time to develop. Once the juveniles leave the nest the family stays together for a few more days, but the juveniles are then independent. Bank Swallows are usually successful in nesting unless there is a period of cold rainy weather right when they need the most food for the growing nestlings. Because they are dependent on the spring abundance of flying insects to feed their young, Bank Swallows usually have only one brood a year and if something happens to the nest before the young fledge the parents usually do not try to breed again that year. Once the young are independent, the Bank Swallows abandon the colony, collecting in flocks of 100 to 1000. Over the next few weeks the adults will molt, obtaining new flight feathers to replace the older worn ones. Then, while it is still early summer to us, they return to their southern wintering grounds.

Feeding habits

Like all swallows, the Bank Swallow is a superb flier, gracefully swooping and darting about. Swallows feed by flying around with their mouths open and scooping up insects. The insects are sighted with the large eyes and rapid course corrections are made to intersect with the prey. This gives the swallows their characteristic flight pattern. Bank Swallows catch mostly small soft-bodied insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, mayflies, and stoneflies. They usually feed in open areas; when nesting they often feed right in front of the colony.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 46,000,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Bank Swallow status Least Concern


Nonbreeding transient and winter visitor mostly in lowlands south to n. and cen. Chile ( sightings from Arica and Valdivia) and n. Argentina ( recorded south only to Tucum?n, C?rdoba, and Buenos Aires, but probably a few straggle farther); most birds range east of the Andes, but a few also regularly migrate along the Pacific coast; the number of birds reaching s. South America appears to be small, but it remains uncertain where the largest concentrations of overwinterers occur. Breeds in North America, wintering mainly in South America; also occurs widely in the Old World.

Distribution map

Bank Swallow range map


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