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September 2, 2013

Miracles of Migration IX: The Barn Swallow

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:08 pm

by Shyamala Rao

The Barn Swallow belongs to a family of birds Hirunidae and all the birds in this family engage in aerial feeding. These are birds that have adapted to catching insects on the wing. The birds have slender bodies, pointed wings, a small sharp beak and strong jaws. They are fast fliers and during foraging they fly at 15 to 30 miles per hour. They have long forked tails and the long tail helps with improved maneuverability.


The Barn Swallow is about 6 and ¾ inches long has a brown back, a reddish brown throat, white bellies, a long deeply forked tail, and short dark bills. Barn Swallows nest near or in barns, under bridges and under culverts. The nests may be a solitary pair or small colonies. The mating pair is monogamous and the swallows build their nest together. The male Barn Swallow is protective of the nest from predators not from other swallows.


Female Barn Swallows lay a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs and both male and female incubate the eggs. The eggs hatch in 15 to 20 days and the chicks are born bald and with shut eyes. The eyes open at day 10. Both parents feed the chicks and even after fledging the chicks sit outside the nest usually on wires and engage in begging calls. The parents both are involved in feeding the chicks until they are grown and able to fly swoop and catch insects on the wing just as their parents do and have shown them how.


The Barn Swallows leave their nesting grounds in Texas as the insect population begins to decline. The Swallows gather in flocks and fly out to their winter dwellings in September and October. They go is large numbers together, they are daytime fliers. Barn Swallows are soaring fliers and fly above 150 feet above ground. They use soaring flight for part of their journey and powered flight for part of their journey. Barn Swallows depart for southern locations which extend from Mexico all the way south to the northern half of Argentina. In the early spring the Swallows are some of the first birds to return to the Northern Hemisphere. They are a welcome sight and their cheerful songs and their brilliant flying acrobatics make the last of winter much less onerous and portend the onset of spring.

1 Comment »

  1. Such a well documented and photographed series of this speedy little aerial forager! They are so interesting to watch with all the aerial antics. I often confuse the swallow species because I do not cross their paths all that often. I was fortunate enough to run across a solitary pair at High Hope Ranch near Fossil Rim just a few months ago and was able to sit in a chair under a porch roof and photograph their comings and goings. I learned a lot reading this! Exceptionally well done!

    Comment by Jim Baines — October 6, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

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