Bird GuideSwallowsBarn Swallow

At a Glance

One of our most familiar birds in rural areas and semi-open country, this swallow is often seen skimming low over fields with a flowing, graceful flight. It seems to have adopted humans as neighbors, typically placing its nest in barns or garages, or under bridges or wharves; indeed, it is now rare to find a Barn Swallow nest in a site that is not manmade. The species is also common across Europe and Asia, wintering to southern Africa and South America.
Swallow-like Birds, Swallows
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, High Mountains, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Swooping

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Migrates in flocks, mostly by day. Southward migration is well under way by mid-August.


5 3/4-7 3/4" (15-20 cm). Long forked tail (with white spots, which may be hidden). Steel blue back, chestnut throat. Chest and belly vary from deep buff to white. Young birds have shorter tails.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Blue, Orange, Red, White
Wing Shape
Long, Narrow, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Forked, Long, Notched

Songs and Calls

Constant liquid twittering and chattering.
Call Pattern
Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Hi, Rattle, Whistle


Open or semi-open land, farms, fields, marshes, lakes. May occur in any kind of open or partly open terrain, especially near water, generally avoiding very dry country and unbroken forest. Often breeds around farms, buildings, towns, and forages over fields or ponds.



4-5, sometimes 6, rarely 7. White, spotted with brown. Incubation is by both sexes (female does more), 13-17 days.


Both parents feed young. One or two additional birds, the pair's offspring from previous broods, may attend the nest and sometimes feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 18-23 days after hatching. 1 or 2 broods per year.

Feeding Behavior

Food is mostly captured and eaten in the air. Often forages quite low over water or fields. In bad weather, may sometimes feed on the ground.


Insects. Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, especially flies (including house flies and horse flies), beetles, wasps, wild bees, winged ants, and true bugs. Also eats some moths, damselflies, grasshoppers, and other insects, and a few spiders and snails. Only occasionally eats a few berries or seeds.


Courtship involves aerial chases. On perch, mated pair sit close together, touch bills, preen each other's feathers. Several pairs may nest in same immediate area, but does not form dense colonies like some swallows. Nest: Original natural sites were in sheltered crevices in cliffs or shallow caves. Sites used today are mostly in open buildings, under eaves, under bridges or docks, or similar places. Nest (built by both sexes) is a cup of mud and dried grass, lined with feathers.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Local declines noted in a few areas, but still widespread and abundant.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Barn Swallow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Barn Swallow

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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