Join for FREE
It only takes a minute!
Zeiss - A window to the world of birds

Welcome to BirdForum.
BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE! You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Personal tools
Main Categories

Barn Swallow

From Opus

Subspecies  H. r. rustica; female left, with shorter tail, male right, with longer tailPhoto by NutcrackerTown Moor, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, UK; 27 April 2015
Subspecies H. r. rustica; female left, with shorter tail, male right, with longer tail
Photo by Nutcracker
Town Moor, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, UK; 27 April 2015
Hirundo rustica

Contents

[edit] Identification

Length: adult 17–21cm (6¾-7½), juvenile 14–15 cm; weight 16–24 g
Adult glossy blue-black above. Forehead, chin and throat reddish-chestnut. Breast band below throat glossy blue-black, broad in some subspecies, narrow or broken in others (see Subspecies, below). Remainder of underparts creamy white to orange-red depending on subspecies. The deeply forked tail is spotted white at the base. Sexes alike, but female has shorter and broader tail streamers.

Juvenile duller and browner (less glossy) above, and tail shorter, with blunt tail streamers, and a brownish-pink forehead and throat.

Subspecies  H. r. rusticaPhoto by IanFGreatham Creek, Seaton Carew, Cleveland, UK
Subspecies H. r. rustica
Photo by IanF
Greatham Creek, Seaton Carew, Cleveland, UK

Variation: the extent of the breast band, the maximum length of the tail streamers, and the underside colour varies among populations.

[edit] Similar Species

Juvenile Barn Swallow lacks the white rump of a Common House Martin. In other parts of the world see Pacific Swallow and Welcome Swallow.

Common Swifts appear all dark and very sickle or boomerang-shaped and are comparatively large compared to the three hirundines below.

Barn Swallows are mostly pale from below and all dark above, with a dark (and reddish) throat/head and long, dark tail streamers.

House Martin are very white below and dark from above, with much shorter, dark tail, and a prominent white rump

Sand Martin are pale from below with a dark throat band, and noticeably brown-coloured above.

There is a difference in the flying style too: Common House Martin flight is more fluttery than Barn Swallow, which is faster, more direct and swooping, while Sand Martin are more fluttery still, while Common Swift is very fast and looks somewhat stiff-winged.

Finally, the calls are all quite distinct: Common Swift calls are quite loud and screeching, while Barn Swallows are more twittery and varied. House Martin and Sand Martin calls are quite similar to each other, less sustained than swallows, and more chirpy and clipped, with Sand Martin being slightly scratchier or gravelly-sounding.

[edit] Distribution

Subspecies H. r. erythrogaster male Photo by bobsofpa Middle Creek WMA, Pennsylvania, USA, May 2010
Subspecies H. r. erythrogaster male
Photo by bobsofpa
Middle Creek WMA, Pennsylvania, USA, May 2010

Breeds mainly in the northern half of the globe.

Abundant and widespread throughout the Palearctic, breeding from the Ireland, France and Portugal east across Europe and Asia to Kamchatka, Japan, and Taiwan. In the north found to 70° N on the Norwegian coast and breeds north to the White Sea in Russia. Breeds on the north Mediterranean coast and most islands, in Turkey and the Caucasus, across northwest Africa and in the Nile valley, but only locally in the Middle East; in southern Asia breeds south to the Himalaya and southern China, including Hong Kong.

In the New World it breeds throughout most of North America and winters in Central and South America. A disjunct population has recently started breeding in Argentina; this population migrates to northern South America during local winter.

Small numbers regularly winter in southern Spain and northwest Africa, but the majority of European birds winter in sub-Saharan Africa, south to the south coast of South Africa. They leave the breeding areas between August and October and return from March to May. Middle Eastern and Egyptian birds are largely resident. Asian birds winter from southern Iran east across southern Pakistan, India, and southeast Asia to northern Australia.

Vagrant north to Iceland (has bred), Faroe Islands (may breed annually), Svalbard, Bear Island and Jan Mayen, also on the Azores, and south to Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia.

[edit] Taxonomy

Subspecies H. r. erythrogaster female Photo by bobsofpa Port Aransas, Texas, USA, April 2010
Subspecies H. r. erythrogaster female
Photo by bobsofpa
Port Aransas, Texas, USA, April 2010

Closely related to Red-chested Swallow H. lucida and Angola Swallow H. angolensis of tropical Africa, both of which have sometimes been treated as subspecies of Barn Swallow in the past.

[edit] Subspecies

Seven to eight different subspecies are accepted[1][2], with typical birds of several of these separable in the field. Variation in eastern Asia is particularly complex, and often disputed[3]. Some genetic evidence that Old and New World populations may be separable at species rank[3], though this has not [yet] been advocated by any of the major ornithological authorities.

  • H. r. rustica
  • Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. Breast band broad; underparts pale creamy-white, rarely pale orange-toned.
  • H. r. transitiva
  • Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan. Breast band broad; underparts pale orangey-toned; slightly larger than nominate.
  • H. r. savignii
  • Egypt. Breast band broad; underparts dark orange-red; slightly larger than nominate.
  • H. r. gutturalis
  • Eastern Himalaya to Korea and Japan, eastern and southern China and Taiwan. Breast band narrow; underparts pale creamy-white.
  • H. r. tytleri
  • South-central Siberia. Breast band broad; underparts pale orangey-toned.
  • H. r. saturata
  • Eastern Siberia. Breast band narrow; underparts dark orange-red.
  • H. r. mandschurica

Northeastern China; included in H. r. saturata by some authors, intermediate between it and H. r. tytleri.

  • H. r. erythrogaster
  • North America (and possibly recorded as a vagrant in Iceland). Breast band narrow, often broken; underparts orange-red.

[edit] Habitat

Mainly occurs on farmland with abundant flying insects attracted by livestock and nesting sites in farm buildings. Often breeds in rural villages but rarely in large towns. Highly gregarious on passage and frequently feeds over large water bodies.

H. r. rustica, immaturePhoto by Alok TewariUttrakhand Himalayas, Alt. 1670 m above MSL, India, April 2016
H. r. rustica, immature
Photo by Alok Tewari
Uttrakhand Himalayas, Alt. 1670 m above MSL, India, April 2016

[edit] Behaviour

Perches on dead branches in trees, and other exposed perches; has adapted well to human activity and very inclined to sit on telegraph wires.
Gregarious, often seen feeding in the company of other species of Hirundinidae and swifts.

[edit] Flight

Fast, with clipped wing beats, often low to the ground. Will fly across a water surface to drink or bathe whilst on the move.

[edit] Breeding

Barn Swallows have been studied extensively for what influences sexual selection etc. In short, in Europe a male with long tail streamers seems to do well. In North America, the colour of the underparts, especially the breast area, seems to be important for the breeding success of a male, with dark colour being advantagous (length of tail streamers still probably is important).

It originally nested in tree holes or overhanging crevices on cliffs (and still does so rarely), but now almost exclusively nests inside buildings such as barns and stables, or under bridges and wharves. Usually the female builds the cup-shaped nest, placed on a beam or against a suitable vertical projection. It is made from mud pellets and lined with grasses, feathers or other soft materials. Four or five reddish-spotted white eggs are laid, and are incubated by the female for 14-19 days; the young fledge 18-23 days later.

[edit] Diet

The diet consists almost entirely of flying insects.

[edit] Vocalisation


Listen in an external program

[edit] In Culture

An old country lore states "Swallows flying high - going to be dry".

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and D Christie, eds. 2004. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334696
  3. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird Names (version 7.2). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  1. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  2. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  3. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  4. BF Member observations

[edit] External Links


Advertisement


Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

Help support BirdForum

Page generated in 0.30983591 seconds with 6 queries
All times are GMT. The time now is 22:55.