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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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.

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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.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Swallows Swallow-like Birds

Violet-green Swallow

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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