The barn swallow is a distinctive bird. It is a swallow but has a sparrow size and can be easily located in South America and North America. Thus, they are also famous as “North American birds”. Bran swallow features vast, broad shoulders that continue themselves towards edgy wings.
Barn swallows are similar to other swallow species in multiple ways. For example, the plumage of the adult barn swallow is blackish-blue in colour, and the trunk and the forehead area is rusty in colour. In addition, adult barn swallows are features of deep, bright blue, rust and cinnamon colour.
Barn swallows frequently engage with ospreys, developing symbiotic association. Both bird species cooperate to share a nesting site, and therefore they both get mutual benefits from each other.
Barn swallow Hirundo Rustica:
The scientific name for the barn swallows is “Hirundo rustica”. Sometimes people call them collectively as the barn swallow Hirundo Rustica. Barn swallows are the most abundantly present swallow species worldwide. The behaviour of barn swallows is similar to other swallow species. However, they are not swift fliers like other similar species.
Barn swallow size:
A barn swallow is more significant than a tree swallow but comparatively small than a bluebird to give a rough viewpoint. Its length is fifteen to nineteen centimetres. On average, it weighs around seventeen to twenty grams.
Barn swallow flight:
Upon perching, this barn swallow has a sparrow size and looks like a cone-shaped bird with a levelled head and no prominent neck. Instead, the barn swallow has girthy shoulders that hold their sturdy pointy wings. Their tail follows the flow of their wings and appears as a deeply forked tail.
Barn swallows feed:
The feeding behavior of barn swallows is very much similar to sparrows. Barn swallow feeds itself in the air and opens habitats. As they are smaller birds, they do not soar too high in the air. Instead, they tend to find their food while flying low in the air.
Barn swallows forage opportunistically over the fields and also above the water. The former are two primary sources where they can find food.
Barn swallows mainly feed on the insects they find on the ground and spot them from the air. The favourite food item is ‘flies’, including house flies, fruit flies, horse flies, etc. In addition to this, they also feed upon the wasps, beetles, ants, winged ants, wild bees like honey bees etc.
Despite the flying insects, barn swallows eat grasshoppers, moths, damselflies, and snails too. They do not munch upon the “plant stuff” like small berries or flower’s seeds etc. Barn swallow foraging can be easily observed over waters and fields.
Barn swallow nests:
Barn swallows compete for the places at which they can build their nests. They do not make their nests in unbroken forests and areas that lack water. During the courtship, the male barn swallows tend to chase the potential candidate in the air. The concept is known as “Aerial chasing.”
When breeding season approaches, a female barn swallow allows the male to mate and do it on a perch. They sit right next to each other, make contact with their bills, and groom feathers of each other.
Unlike other swallows, barn swallows do not form crowded colonies. Instead, they may nest close to each other at every available place. Most of the time, they nest colonially, but at times they may form solitary nests.
Barn swallows generally nest in shallow abandoned caves or the man-made structures, holes and fissures of shaded cliffs. However, as man reduces habitat for the barn swallows, they modify their nesting behaviour and sites. Their nest sites mainly include crevices of tall open buildings beneath the logs or bridges and other places.
Both partners cooperate to form the nests. It consists of dried mud and grass that is shaped into a cup. They also utilize their shredded feathers to line up their nests. Barn swallows also breed sometimes in osprey nests.
Breeding in barn swallows
Barn swallows are monogamous when it comes to mating and breeding. It means they stick to one partner throughout their lives. Though it is rare, male barn swallows sometimes also pair up with another female. Both males and females reach sexual or reproductive maturity at the age of one year. Therefore, they do not form dense colonies.
During the breeding season, barn swallows form breeding pairs with their partners and reach the breeding grounds. They aggressively protect their nesting territory and their mates so that other males do not approach them. Both parents take care of their young ones for up to a week.
The breeding range for barn swallows consists of North America, Northern Europe, Central Asia, Northern areas of Africa, the Middle East, and southern areas of China.
Nesting behavior in barn swallows
Breeding seasons occur only once a year. The nesting period is generally from June-July. Both of the partners participate in building the nest. The nest is made of dried up mud, grass and feathers. The soil aids the nest building. However, unlike cliff swallows, they do not raise their wings while building their nests.
The female barn swallow does not lay as many eggs. However, under normal circumstances, they lay one to three white eggs.
After completing the nest, the eggs acquire reddish-brown spotting. Then, the eggs are fertilized and hatched. Barn swallow parents incubate the eggs for thirteen to sixteen days. Young barn swallows leave their nests as soon as they reach the eighteenth day.
Young Barn swallows may travel to other barn swallow colonies where the young birds can breed in the Spring season.
Like other sparrows, male barn swallows that are unable to find a mate kill the young ones of the other couples. The barn swallows attack the young ones to have a chance to mate with the females. Male-female pre-dependence allows the male to protect the female against invaders.
Singing in barn swallows
Like other swallow birds, barn swallows sing now and then. They sing both as individuals and also form groups to sing. With time, barn swallows have evolved an enormous number of calls they use for a particular situation.
They have specific calls for the predators like Eastern screech owls, gulls, brown rats, racoons etc., known as “Predator alarm calls” that they use to escape predators. Besides that, they also chirp in a fainting manner when they are hungry and beg for food. Clicking noises can also be heard by barn swallows which they make by snapping their jaws. So they have a lot of variety, from predator calls to courtship calls.
Barn swallow habitat
Barn swallows are very adaptable birds, and you can see that barn swallows forage opportunistically in open fields. Their habitat can range from open fields, marshes, less crowded parks, on edges of the roads, high poles, and coastal areas. Barn swallows continue to be at the same place for years and are found widespread through their range.
Barn swallow migration
Barn swallows fly from their breeding grounds to the cooler lands like in central and south America. In Massachusetts, migration may begin in early July, whereas it may begin in June in Florida. They may return early or may return late depending upon the conditions and situations. They may reach in mid-May at breeding sites of Alaska and in January at Southern California.
Questions and Answers
What does a barn swallow look like?
Barn swallows have metallic bluish-black wings, a fork-shaped tail with longer tail feathers and tiny feet. They look similar to sparrows but are actually swallows. They have a unique contrast of blue and cinnamon colours. The face and throat are blue while cinnamon colour extends from their face towards their tail.
What do barn swallows eat?
Barn swallows feed various insects like fire ants, moths, flies, wasps, beetles, winged ants, wild bees, and bugs. In addition to this, they also eat damsels, fireflies, grasshoppers and many other insects. In Europe, barn swallows foraged within a radius of five hundred meters.
Do barn swallows mate for life?
Barn swallows are monogamous, which means if they pair up with their mate, they breed with them for their whole life. However, it is not unlikely to observe copulation with other pairs. The concept is known as “Polygyny.” The partner barn swallows help their colony partners build their nests, but they also play a role in security, incubation, and brooding. However, barn swallows do not tend to form dense colonies.
Do barn swallows migrate?
Barn swallows migrate to Northern South America from April till October. However, unlike other birds, they do not travel to the South. Instead, they travel to the North and come back to the Southern hemisphere when spring comes back.