Northern Rough-winged Swallow
|Conservation status||Because it will nest in artificial sites, including road cuts and holes in bridges, may have increased with the spread of civilization.|
|Habitat||Near streams, lakes, river banks, also arroyos in dry country. Widespread in any kind of open country, but most commonly near water, nesting in vertical dirt banks (as along streambanks, river bluffs, gravel pits). May also nest along dry washes in arid country, but usually feeds over water, fields, or dense brush.|
Forages mostly in the air, patrolling over rivers, ponds, and fields in swift flight. Usually forages low. Often solitary in foraging, but may join concentrations of other swallows at good feeding areas.
5-7, sometimes 4-8. White. Incubation probably by female, 12-16 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 19-21 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 19-21 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.
Insects. Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including many flies, wasps, winged ants, bees, true bugs, and beetles. Also eats some moths, caterpillars, mayflies, damselflies, spiders.
Solitary in nesting; unlike Bank Swallow, does not form colonies, although several pairs may nest in favorable site. In courtship, male flies after female, spreading the white feathers under the base of his tail so that they are prominently displayed. Nest site is usually in burrow in vertical dirt bank; may be bank along running stream, or road cut or similar bank miles from water. Birds may dig tunnel themselves, 1-6' long, or may use old burrow of Bank Swallow, kingfisher, or ground squirrel. Sometimes in other kinds of cavities, such as drainpipe, culvert, crevice in bridge support, hole in side of building. Bulky nest at end of burrow made of twigs, weeds, bark fibers, lined with finer grasses, occasionally with fresh horse manure added.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Generally an early migrant in spring. In parts of the southwest it is absent mainly in late fall, reappearing in January or even late December.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA low, unmusical br-r-ret, more drawn out than the call of the Bank Swallow and often doubled.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Northern Rough-winged 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.