Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Violet-green Swallow

Tachycineta thalassina

A small swallow of the west, nesting from Alaska to central Mexico. Similar to the Tree Swallow in appearance and also in behavior, nesting in tree cavities and in birdhouses; it also will nest in rock crevices of cliffs in rugged terrain. Flocks are often seen flying high over mountain pine forests or over steep canyons.
Conservation status Numbers probably stable. Benefits in some areas from supply of artificial nest sites, including nest boxes. In other areas, may suffer from competition for nest sites with introduced starlings and House Sparrows.
Family Swallows
Habitat Widespread when foraging; nests in open forests, mountains, towns. During migration, often near water, as along rivers, lakes, coastline. Wide range of nesting habitats, mainly in semi-open situations, including aspen groves, pine forest, canyon walls, sometimes open prairie if nest sites exist. In Mexico, also in low desert, nesting in holes in giant cactus.
A small swallow of the west, nesting from Alaska to central Mexico. Similar to the Tree Swallow in appearance and also in behavior, nesting in tree cavities and in birdhouses; it also will nest in rock crevices of cliffs in rugged terrain. Flocks are often seen flying high over mountain pine forests or over steep canyons.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages in flight, catching insects in the air. Often flies higher than other swallows, although it will feed low over ponds, especially in bad weather. Usually forages in flocks; may associate with other swallows or with White-throated Swifts.


Eggs

4-6, rarely 7. White. Incubation is evidently mostly or entirely by the female, about 13-18 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings, but female often does more. Young leave the nest about 23-24 days after hatching. Parents continue to feed the young for some time after they leave the nest. 1 brood per year, perhaps sometimes 2.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings, but female often does more. Young leave the nest about 23-24 days after hatching. Parents continue to feed the young for some time after they leave the nest. 1 brood per year, perhaps sometimes 2.

Diet

Insects. Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, such as flies, true bugs, wasps, winged ants, wild bees, beetles, moths, and many others.


Nesting

May nest in isolated pairs or in small colonies. Nest site is in a cavity, usually an old woodpecker hole or natural cavity in tree, sometimes in hole or crevice in rock. Will use birdhouses. In northwestern Mexico, will nest in holes in giant cactus. Nest (built by both sexes, with female doing most of work) is a cup of grass, twigs, rootlets, lined with many feathers.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Migrates in flocks. Very rarely overwinters north of Mexico, except for some on California coast. Spring migration very early, returning to southwest in large numbers by February.

Help this bird. Donate today
Migration

Migrates in flocks. Very rarely overwinters north of Mexico, except for some on California coast. Spring migration very early, returning to southwest in large numbers by February.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high dee-chip given in flight. Also a series of varying tweet notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.