Barn Swallow

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This bird is commonly seen in rural areas and semi-open country skimming low over fields with a flowing, graceful flight. They frequently seek refuge in buildings, and therefore, they may be considered a nuisance. They are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act.

Fast Facts

Color Barn swallows have a steely blue back, wings, and tail, and reddish-brown to yellowish-brown underparts. The blue crown and face contrast with the cinnamon-colored forehead and throat. White spots under the tail can be difficult to see except in flight. Males are more boldly colored than females.
Size They are 5-8″ long and weigh 0.6-0.7 oz. Their wingspan is 11-13″.
Appearance When perched, the barn swallow appears cone shaped, with a slightly flattened head, no visible neck, and broad shoulders that taper to long, pointed wings. The tail extends well beyond the wingtips and the long outer feathers give the tail a deep fork appearance.

Diet

Food is mostly captured and eaten in the air, often foraging quite low over water or fields. They feed on a wide variety of flying insects, including flies, beetles, wasps, bees, winged ants, and true bugs. Moths, damselflies, grasshoppers, other insects, and occasionally a few berries or seeds are also eaten.

Habitat & Nesting

Although it is becoming increasingly rare to find a barn swallow nest in a site that is not man-made, natural nesting sites are in sheltered crevices in cliffs or shallow caves. Nests are more commonly found in open buildings, under eaves, under bridges or docks, barns, sheds or similar places. The nest is built in the shape of a cup with mud and dried grass and is lined with feathers.

Mating & Life Cycle

Courtship involves aerial chases. When perched, mated pairs sit close together, touch bills, and preen each other’s feathers. Several pairs may nest in same immediate area, but do not form dense colonies like some other swallow species.

Barn swallows have one to two broods per year with four to five white eggs each. The eggs are incubated by both sexes for 13-17 days. Both parents feed the young, and occasionally, one or two additional birds (offspring from previous broods) may attend the nest and feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 18-23 days after hatching.

Damage

Swallows can damage property with their mud nests, which are not only unattractive but can permanently damage the surfaces on which they are built. Their droppings that fall under the nests may breed bacteria and parasites causing major health concerns, requiring expensive and time-consuming clean-up and repair.

Prevention & Control

Barn Swallow Prevention

Swallows are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act which states that once an egg is laid in a nest, the nest is to remain intact until the hatchlings have left.

As a highly protected bird, property owners are encouraged to take proactive steps to prevent them from settling in and building nests, which can be both unsightly and damaging. Humane options for deterring swallows from landing or nesting on your property include:

  • Clean and disinfect previous nesting areas to discourage the nest being used again.
  • Install a barrier to block the birds from the portion of the wall under an eave or overhang.
  • Provide an alternative nesting site by installing a swallow nesting box or platform on or near the home.
  • Remove feeders to limit this food source.
  • Remove leftover food on the ground and tables of open-air eateries. Tightly close all trash containers.
  • Discourage the feeding of swallows by humans.
  • Swallows are quick and alert to any perceived threats, so scare tactics, such as sound deterrents or visual distractions, can be highly effective.
Barn Swallow Control

Because swallows are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is illegal to intentionally capture, kill or disrupt these migratory birds or their nests and eggs.

Experts in bird control address concerns through removal, exclusion and deterrence. Factors which determine the best method of control include: area of application, bird species, location, access. Spikes, netting and electrical deterrents are the most commonly used solutions.

Bird services are limited to commercial clients.