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Violet-green Swallow - BirdForum Opus

Adult male
Photo © by Pauhana
Del Valle Regional Park, LIvermore, Alameda County, California, 10 June 2017
Tachycineta thalassina


12–13 cm (4¾-5 in)
Males have nonglossy, velvety green or greenish bronze upperparts, and are white underneath. White on the face extends above the eye, unlike Tree Swallows. Two white patches on rump.
Females are dull in color.
Juveniles are grayish-brown with a faint bronze sheen on the back.

Similar Species

Similar in appearance to Tree Swallows.


Adult male
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
San Gregorio, California, 18 May 2020

Found from the Rocky Mountains west to the Pacific coast. Spans from central Alaska and central Canada south to Mexico's highlands.


Two subspecies:

  • T. t. thalassina:
  • T. t. brachyptera:
  • Mountains of central and southern Baja; coastal western Mexico (Sonora to Sinaloa)


Photo © by Curt Morgan
Granby, Colorado, USA, 29 July 2016

Prefers open, deciduous, or mixed coniferous-deciduous forests containing ponderosa pine, aspen, willow, and spruce trees. In northern range, breeds at lower elevations on the coast and in wooded canyons. Breeds at higher elevations in the southern part of their range, also use habitat towns and cities. Also found in cities and suburbs in the Northwest.


Fly rapidly in small flocks in pursuit of flying insects, like other swallows. This species spends more time perched than some others.


Their diet consists almost entirely of insects.


They have only one brood each year. Although they are generally seen in groups of about 25 to (less often) 50 pairs, sometimes just a single pair are observed.


Most common call is a rapid buzzy twitter unlike the liquid bubbly calls of the similar Tree Swallow.


Adult female
Photo © by Michael Woodruff
Spokane, Washington, USA, 19 April 2005

Mostly a long-distance migrant, wintering from southern Sonora and the Mexican Plateau south to Honduras and El Salvador, occasionally to Costa Rica; resident in Mexico. Forms flocks before and during migration.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Brown, C. R., A. M. Knott, and E. J. Damrose (2020). Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.vigswa.01
  3. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2019. Violet-green_Swallow in: All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/ Accessed on 19May 2020.

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