Bird GuideSwallowsViolet-green Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Tachycineta thalassina

At a Glance

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.
Swallow-like Birds, Swallows
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Swooping

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


5 1/2" (14 cm). A bit smaller than Tree Swallow, with faster wingbeats, less gliding. Dark above (glossed violet and green in good light), with white rump patches that almost meet above tail, white circling up on face. Female duller, with smudged face. Juvenile gray-brown above, dingy on face, may be hard to tell from young Tree Swallow.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Blue, Brown, Green, White
Wing Shape
Long, Narrow, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A high dee-chip given in flight. Also a series of varying tweet notes.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Whistle


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.



4-6, rarely 7. White. Incubation is evidently mostly or entirely by the female, about 13-18 days.


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.

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.


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


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

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 Violet-green Swallow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Violet-green 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.