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Swallow Bird

Last updated date: 22nd Mar 2024
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Swallow Animal Bird

Swallows come from the family of Hirundinidae which also includes martins. Swallows, although little birds, reflect upon diverse spiritual strands of life. They symbolize freedom from past pain and anxiety, and the rebound of hope, happiness, passion and tempo. Now you know why William Shakespeare quotes, “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings.”

The swallow bird is also widely referred to as ‘bird of freedom’. It is found in almost every part of the world having a temperate climate. While urbanization all across the globe has induced issues for other birds, swallows have adapted to the changing world and the altering environment. These hearty and spunky small birds are here to stay alongside humans.

With over 83 different types of swallows, there are much more to know about these little birds, so let’s get to know them better by knowing some amazing facts about swallow animals like types of swallow birds, swallow's habitat, swallow bird nest and baby swallows.

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Interesting Facts About Swallow Birds

  • There are 84 recognized species of swallows worldwide.

  • This family of a swallow is further sub-classified into 19 genera and 83 species.

  • It is perceived that swallows developed in the continent of Africa, and this is where most types of swallows are also found.

  • Though swallows are extremely migratory birds, the South and West African swallows do not migrate.

  • The barn swallow (scientific name-Hirundo rustica) is the most common and widespread species of the family.

  • The barn swallow is also the fastest flier of all the swallow species, with the highest recorded flying speed at 74kmph.

  • The bank swallow (scientific name-Riparia riparia) is the smallest amongst all swallow species.

  • The purple martin (scientific name-Progne subis) is not only the largest swallow in North America but is also amongst the world’s largest swallows.

  • A genetic mutation can result in swallows being born white. Such albino swallows generally possess poor eyesight and seldomly survive beyond the fledgeling stage.

  • Male and female swallow birds are virtually similar in appearance.

  • Swallows are not even distantly linked to swifts and house martins

  • Our known swallow, Hirundo rustica, is usually recognized as the barn swallow. It breeds all across the Northern Hemisphere including every European country other than Iceland.

  • The barn swallow is the world’s most widespread swallow however some similar species breed in Africa. Australia’s welcome swallow is also closely linked.

  • In Finland and Norway swallow birds nest well north of the Arctic Circle.

  • European swallow birds mostly winter in Africa south of the Sahara desert. Surprisingly, populations from northern Europe and British Isles winter far south than those from southern and central Europe, flying to Botswana and South Africa.

  • Several swallows regularly spend the winter season in southern Spain.

  • The unusually strong nest-faithfulness implies a phenomenon called philopatry.

  • Swallows prefer to nest in open-fronted structures such as stables, barns and cowsheds.

  • It takes a pair of swallows up to 1,200 journeys to make a nest. Only the female swallow bird lines the shelter.

  • Swallows like to nest close to huge domestic animals like horses or cattle. The decrease in dairy farming in the UK and the consequent increase in arable farming is not suited to the species.

  • Majority of British swallows make an effort to rear two broods each summer and some succeed in raising three.

  • Europe’s population is believed to number approximately 15 million individuals, with the highest numbers in Bulgaria and Poland.

  • Red-rumped swallows are outstretching gradually to north from the Mediterranean and small numbers of over shooting birds take place here every spring.

  • Swallow birds were probable to have been much rarer until humans began practicing agriculture and animal husbandry.

  • While Mediterranean swallow animal birds frequently fledge their first broods in April, birds that breed in northern Scandinavia barely arrive before the third week of May.

  • In Russia songs were composed in honor of their return after the long, cold winter.

  • Male habitually comes back first from migration, singing over his territory in anticipation of attracting a mate. Females usually appear a week to a fortnight afterwards.

  • They will instantly acquire artificial nests that bear a resemblance to their own mud-built constructions.

  • Most folklore surrounds the swallow.

  • To see the first swallow of the year is considered as a good omen and aptitude.

  • Ahead of the mysteries of migration were understood, it was believed that swallows spent the winter submerged in the mud of lakes and ponds.

  • Swallows always swallow and drink on the wing, flying low to sip the water.

  • A flag having a V-shaped cut is referred to as a swallowtail flag.

  • The barn swallow is esteemed as the national bird of Austria and Estonia.

Swallow Birds are Commonly Categorized Into Three i.e.

Swallow Animal Species of India

Common Name

Scientific Name

Hill Swallow

Hirundo Domicola

Indian Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon Fluvicola

Indian Wire-Tailed Swallow

Hirundo Smithii

Size & Shape of Swallow Bird

When resting, the sparrow-sized Barn Swallow seems to be cone shaped, with a minor flattened head, no noticeable neck, and broad shoulders that taper to long, pointed wings. The tail stretches out well beyond the wingtips and the large outer feathers that provide the tail with a deep fork. The measurement of both sexes or shall say all across the species ranges from 4 to 8 inches in length and weighs 11 to 20 grams. The Wingspan is about 11.4-12.6 inches (29-32 cm).

Swallows Color Pattern

Barn Swallows basically feature metallic or steely blue back wings and tail, and rufous to tan underparts. The blue face and crown part is in contrast with the cinnamon-coloured neck and forehead. White spots beneath the tail can be complicatedly visible except in flight. Males are more intensely coloured than females.

Swallows Habitat

You can spot the largely adaptable Barn Swallow feeding in open habitats from ball fields, agricultural fields, grounds, parks, beaches and roadway edges to ponds, lakes, marshes, meadows, and coastal waters. Their nests are often quite easy to find under the eaves or inside of barns, bridges, sheds and other structures. They forage in open areas throughout most of the continent. They are spread from sea level up to 10,000 feet. Breeding habitat should be inclusive of open areas for foraging, cliffs or constructions to build nests on, and a source of mud such as a riverbank to render the material for building nests.

Swallows Behavior

Barn Swallows feed on the wing, ripping insects from just above the ground or water to heights of 100 feet or more. They fly having fluid wing beats in bursts of straight flight, scarcely gliding, and can implement rapid, tight turns and dives. When aquatic insects hatch, Swallows animals may join other swallow species in blended foraging flocks.

Swallows Way of Communication

Swallows are generally social birds and produce short chirps for interacting with each other. During times of stress or hazards, the bird makes a series of chirps. Swallows also snaps their beak together to send across a clicking sound. Both male and female swallows roost in huge flocks and are involved in taking care of the young ones.

Swallows Food and Diet

Being an insectivorous bird, swallows feed on the majority of flies and insects of all types. In addition, ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, crickets, dragonflies, grasshoppers, moths, wasps, and other flying insects also make for swallows' diets. Barn Swallows generally take comparatively big, single insects instead of feeding on swarms of smaller prey. They will also pick up small pebbles, gravel or eggshells and oyster shells laid down by humans, which may aid the birds to digest insects or add required calcium to the diet. Swallows catch their prey in flight. In fact, this bird species also drinks water on the fly.

Swallow Bird Nest

Together with trees, swallows construct nests in man-made structures such as deserted buildings, under the bridges and sheds. This is one of the reasons for the increase in the population of swallows and the habitation area. Both the male and female barn swallows participate in building the nest. The barn swallow nest is constructed taking mud which is mixed with grass. The swallow bird nest is generally 2 inches deep and 3 inches in diameter and is built on a horizontal surface. Once the nest is all set and ready, the swallow lines it with feathers, grass and lightweight plastic on the inside.

Swallows LifeSpan

The lifespan of swallows across all species is 4 to 8 years 

Nesting Description



Clutch Size

4-7 eggs

Number of Broods


Egg Width

0.5-0.6 inches

Egg Length

0.6-0.8 inches

Egg Description

Creamy or pinkish-white, blemished with brown, grey and lavender.

Incubation Period

13-17 days

Nestling Period

15-27 days

Condition at Hatching

Eyes closed, naked other than for sporadic tufts of pale gray down.

FAQs on Swallow Bird

Q1. How to Spot a Swallow?

Answer: If you’re lucky enough to see them up close then swallows can be easily determined from their metallic dark blue plumage, chin and chestnut forehead.

Swallows have a notably longer forked tail than house martins and swifts and feed a lot closer to the ground.

Q2. How Do Swallows Find a Mate?

Answer: Swallows may not induce bloody milk, but the male counterparts do have a darker side in a way that the latter go to extreme levels to make sure that their genes are passed onto the next generation.

Males without a mate will time and again visit the nests of other swallows to hook themselves up with females that are already paired. However, most of the time, the only way a female will approve of a new male is if their current mate dies or if the nest dooms, thus technically ‘divorcing’ the established pair.

Rogue males often take things into their own ‘wings.’ For instance, if there is an unattended nest with young chicks in it, it has been familiar with a male to kill the whole brood, confirming that the nest fails and making it more certain that the female will look for another male elsewhere.

Q3. Where Do Swallows Migrate To?

Answer: Swallows endeavour a praise-worthy 6000 mile migration between the UK and South Africa twice a year. The migration is undertaken in search of food. During the summers, they nest in the UK, but as they only sustain through aerial insects (most of which are large flies, horseflies and bluebottles), their food source begins to run out in the autumn.

Faced with the odds of little or no food, they begin to head south during September and October. It’s no cakewalk for our departing swallow animals as their tremendous migration takes them south through Europe and across the Sahara desert.

They cover almost 200 miles a day, usually, at about 20mph – the maximum flight speed recorded was a jumbo 35mph.

In Addition to their high-flown journey, swallows also run the risk of starvation, exhaustion, prostration and must endure extreme weather.

Although they fatten up before they depart it is still not easy for them to avoid the risks they might encounter on route. Thereby, swallow populations do oscillate year on year.

Q4. Do Swallows Return to the Same Nest?

Answer: The majority of songbirds use a nest for just a season or a single clutch, and then build a new one – if they sustain to breed again. However, one study revealed that most swallows returned to the same colony, with 44% of pairs re-inhabiting the same nest. “This is exceptional seeing the length of a swallow’s return migration from its wintering grounds in South Africa.