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Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

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Barn Swallow, Natural Pest Control

Barn Swallows have adapted to nesting near people, and build their cup-shaped mud nests in barns or garages, or on protected ledges, often near each other. The good news? These twittery, flittery birds love to eat the insects that humans consider pesky.Imagine: 60 insects per hour, a whopping 850... read more »


Swallows in Winter?

Most Barn Swallows migrate south for the winter. But recently, small populations have stayed through the winter, seeking out pockets of flying insects for food. To learn more about this winter surprise, visit read more »


Barn Swallows - Splendor in the Back Yard

This lovely creature is a Barn Swallow - notice the rich colors! A genuine master of the air, the swallow swoops low along the ground at high speed, changing direction in the blink of an eye. This prodigy has flown all the way from South America, to offer - without fee - its services as a... read more »

Topics & Themes:  plumage

Shift Change - Swallows to Bats

As darkness grows, bats, like this western long-eared bat, replace swallows in the business of catching flying insects. The night shift has come on duty. Both swallows and bats consume vast quantities of insects. Both are critical components of healthy environments. But the way they fly is... read more »

Topics & Themes:  gardening

The Birthday of John James Audubon

April 26th is the birthday of John James Audubon, woodsman, naturalist, and painter. He included 435 birds - including this Barn Swallow - in his monumental Birds of America. In A Book of Americans, Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet wrote about Audubon: "Some men live for warlike deeds, Some for... read more »

Topics & Themes:  history


Migratory birds connect the Northern Plains with many parts of the Western Hemisphere. Barn and Cliff Swallows, McCown's Longspurs, this Lark Bunting, and many other birds winter from Central to southern South America. But their reproduction depends on the bounty of the prairie spring. Disrupting... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Where Swallows Go in Winter

Through all of spring and summer, swallows dart and sail overhead, their airborne grace a wonder to behold. But by October, the skies seem empty. Most swallows have flown south, in search of insects. The eight species of swallows that nest in the US - including this Cliff Swallow - migrate south... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Swallows Swallow

Roughly 99% of a swallow's diet is flying insects. They gulp down millions of flies, mosquitoes, and agricultural pests, in the course of feeding themselves and their young. The world population of Barn Swallows is estimated to be 190 million. If each ate just 350 insects per day, that would mean... read more »


Swallows Return to Nest

Each spring, eight species of swallows — including this Barn Swallow — migrate north from the tropics to nest in North America. Tree Swallows and Purple Martins are especially dependent on man-made nestboxes. Tree Swallows nest over much of the continent, while Purple Martins are most prevalent... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration, nesting

Barn Swallows Travel South, Featuring Harry Fuller

Barn Swallows are heading south by now, many headed for South America. Birding guide Harry Fuller says: "Just think! You got this tiny little brain, smaller than a walnut, and you spend the summer in Oregon and you've got to go to Chile for the winter, 'cause you're a Barn Swallow, and you can do... read more »

Topics & Themes:  migration

Swallow or Swift?

At a glance, swallows and swifts, both graceful fliers, look much alike. But swifts — like this Chimney Swift — have longer, slimmer wings and short bodies, enabling them to glide for long periods. Their glides are punctuated by rapid, stiff bursts of wing-beats. Swallows, on the other hand, flex... read more »

Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching, flight

Rachel Carson’s Muse

Rachel Carson found inspiration in the work of 19th-century writer Richard Jefferies, whose work helped Carson develop her deep sense of connection with the natural world. Jefferies wrote: "Consider the grasses and the oaks, the swallows, the sweet blue butterfly — they are one and all a sign and... read more »

Topics & Themes:  reflection