Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Barn Swallow

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Hirundo rustica | [UK] Barn Swallow | [FR] Hirondelle rustique | [DE] Rauchschwalbe | [ES] Golondrina Bermeja | [IT] Rondine comune | [NL] Boerenzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Hirundo rustica Worldwide widespread
Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
Hirundo rustica gutturalis
Hirundo rustica rustica
Hirundo rustica saturata
Hirundo rustica savignii
Hirundo rustica transitiva
Hirundo rustica tytleri

Physical charateristics

Barn swallows are small birds. They range in size from 14.6 to 19.9 cm long, with a wingspan of 31.8 to 34.3 cm. They weigh between 17 and 20 g. Barn swallows are metallic blue-black above and pale beige below. They have light brown on their throat and forehead, and have a long, deeply-forked tail. Males and females are similar in appearance, though females tend to be less vibrantly colored and have shorter outer tail-streamers.

Listen to the sound of Barn Swallow

[audio: Swallow.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 18 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 19 days
fledging min.: 18 days fledging max.: 23 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


Barn swallows are native in all the biogeographic regions except Australia and Antarctica. The breeding range of barn swallows includes North America, northern Europe, northcentral Asia, northern Africa, the Middle East, southern China, and Japan. They winter in South America, South Asia, Indonesia, and Micronesia.


Barn swallows are very adaptable birds and can nest anywhere with open areas for foraging, a water source, and a sheltered ledge. They seek out open habitats of all types, including agricultural areas, and are commonly found in barns or other outbuildings. They will also build nests under bridges, the eaves of old houses, and boat docks, as well as in rock caves and even on slow-moving trains.


Barn swallows are socially monogamous. However, extra-pair copulations are common, making this species genetically polygamous. Breeding pairs form each spring after arrival on the breeding grounds. Pairs re-form each spring, though pairs that have nested together successfully may mate together for several years. Males try to attract females by spreading their tails to display them and singing. Barn swallows usually breed between May and August, but this varies greatly with location. They usually raise two broods of chicks each summer. Both birds of a pair make the nest. They build the shell of mud, and line it with grass and feathers. The female lays 3 to 7 eggs (average 5). Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch in 13 to 15 days. The chicks are naked and helpless when they hatch. Both parents feed and protect the chicks, as well as removing fecal sacs from the nest. The nestlings remain in the nest for about 20 days before fledging. When barn swallows are handled by humans they tend to attempt to fledge at least a day too early. The parents continue to care for the chicks for up to a week after fledging, feeding them and leading them back to the nest to sleep. By two weeks after fledging, the barn swallow chicks have dispersed and often travel widely to other barn swallow colonies. Young barn swallows are able to breed in the first breeding season after they have hatched. Generally, young barn swallows do not produce as many eggs as do older birds.

Feeding habits

Barn swallows are insectivores. Flies, grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, beetles, moths and other flying insects make up 99 % of their diet. They catch most of their prey while in flight, and are able to feed their young at the nest while flying.


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 190,000,000 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.
Barn Swallow status Least Concern


Migratory. A few aberrant individuals winter every year in southern and western Europe as far north as Britain and Ireland, and recorded annually in winter in southern Spain; small numbers winter regularly in North Africa; also small resident or partly resident populations in east Mediterranean countries. Otherwise, west Palearctic birds are long-distance migrants.
European and north-west Asian birds winter largely in Africa, mainly south of equator, though also locally numerous in West Africa. Passage broad-front, including large transdesert movements into and out of Africa across Sahara and Middle East. Juvenile dispersals begin July and become oriented southwards by early August as migration begins. Autumn passage protracted, with peak exodus from north-west Europe in September and first half of October. Mediterranean passage and arrivals in Africa north of equator are at height mid-September to late October, and birds become numerous in wintering regions south of equator in November. Return movement begins February. In North Africa, Mediterranean basin, and Middle East, peak spring movement occurs mid-March to late April. Early birds return to north-west Europe in second half of March, though main arrivals mid-April to mid-May.

Distribution map

Barn Swallow range map


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