The Barn Swallow, with its distinctive long forked tail, makes it the easiest of North American swallows for bird watchers to identify. Although in flight the feathers are swept back and form a single long point behind the bird.
One sure sign of summer for anyone who enjoys bird watching is this bird flying back and forth to any open barn or outbuilding in the country. This bird spends more time in the air then almost any other land bird. A friend to
farmers as it is on an end search for insects throughout the season.
Measuring 5 1/2 to 7 inches in length with pointed wings and a deeply forked tail.
The bill is very short. Dark blue-black above with a dark rusty throat. The rest of the underparts are a buffy or pale rusty.
These birds are generally monogamous, males mating with a single female. Although rare, males sometimes will pair with 2 females.
Paired males will aggressively defend the small area around the nest and guard his mate from other males that might attempt to copulate with her.
Both the male and female build the nest, usually in the morning and making up to 1,000 trips to collect mud.
Although these birds probably nested in caves and on cliffs, they now use man-made structures such as barns, deck and patio overhangs.
The nest is a cup of mud pellets lined with grass and feathers, built under eaves of buildings, resting on a beam or some projection in barns, under bridges, in culverts, or occasionally in a niche on a cliff.
The female lays 3 to 8 white eggs that are spotted with reddish brown. The eggs are incubated for 14 to 16 days and the young will leave the nest in 18 to 23 days.
Two broods a season may be attempted. Barn Swallows return to the same nest season to season and making repairs to that nest if needed. Removing nest during the
winter will not keep them from returning. A barrier may have to be built in order for them to change sites. Once they move on the barrier can be removed.
These birds eat and feed their young flying insects caught on the wing. During the breeding season these birds will feed in pairs and fly at a low altitude, generally over fields and water.
Sometimes these birds are mistaken for Purple Martins. These birds are the ones most likely following you as you mow large field areas. Trying to catch the insects the mower causes to fly up.
Purple Martins do not feed that close to the ground. Instead, martins feed very high in the air for the most part and only fly low over water to drink.
During the non-breeding season they will feed in small, loosely formed flocks.
Bird watchers can look for Barn Swallows in open country and marshes, especially near barns, outbuildings, bridges, and culverts.
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