Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica


  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family : Hirundinidae
  • Genus : Hirundo
  • Species : rustica

Binomial name

  • Linnaeus, 1758


  • Size: 18 cm
  • Wingspan : 32 to 34 cm
  • Weight : 16 to 25 g


16 years



XC : Jarek Matusiak

The usual call is a “vit” or “uit”, isolated, often emitted in flight. It can be repeated or it can be chained in small stanzas like “tsi di dit” or “si si sit” in interactions. The alarm call is an energetic “tsivitt” emitted in series as long as the danger persists. The song is a long, low-pitched but quite melodious chirp, in which one finds the tone of the calls and ending with a syllable stretched into a squeaky trill.

To learn more.




With its streamlined body, sickle wings, forked tail and wide distribution, the Barn Swallow can be taken as a model of the family Hirundinidae.
The adult in breeding plumage has blackish upper body and wing coverts with bluish highlights in good light. Remiges and rectrices are more brown and without reflection. In the typical subspecies “rustica”, the underside of the body is white with a creamy tint. The head shows a typical brick colored forehead and throat.
Its black sides enclose the throat, include the dark eye and extend into a more or less regular blackish pectoral band which may include some brown feathers. The tail has blackish rectrices with a large white subterminal patch. Their size increases slightly from the inside to the outside, hence a forked appearance. The external rectrices lengthen while being thinned to form two narrow “nets”. The black beak, small but broad, gives access to a broad oral cavity. The very short legs are blackish.
The sexual dimorphism is very weak. The adult female can be distinguished from the male by its shorter “nets” and its plumage is a little less brilliant.
The juvenile is recognizable by its pinkish-fawn forehead and throat and the absence of tail feathers.
The species cannot be confused with any other swallow in most of its range. In Southeast Asia, one must be careful with the Tahitian Swallow, quite similar, and to a lesser extent with the Long-tailed Swallow. On the other hand, in Africa where it winters, 3 or 4 species show similarities.
The 8 subspecies described differ between them by the color of the lower parts which can go until a reddish-chestnut rather pronounced, for example in the subspecies erythrogaster of North America or savignii of Egypt. The importance of the pectoral collar also varies a lot according to the ssp. It goes by thinning from west to east and can go until the incomplete band, with a sketch only on the sides of the chest as in the ssp saturata of the east of Russia.


The barn swallow needs open spaces such as farmland and wetlands to feed, usually at altitudes below 1000 meters, but locally up to 3000 m.
Water bodies play an essential role, on the one hand for hunting in difficult climatic conditions and on the other hand for drinking in periods of heat.
For reproduction, it is very dependent on man and his constructions. It likes farms and rural villages where it finds confined spaces (stables, cowsheds, barns, garages and other wash houses) where it can build its nest. The condition is that these spaces are accessible at all times. This is why it nests more rarely inside houses or apartments. The presence of electrical and telephone wires used as perches is a very favorable factor. However, it is rare in the city, probably because of the distance from the hunting areas and the scarcity of nesting sites.
It is fair to ask how the species nested before man began to build houses. It was then probably rarer and had to nest in caves.
After nesting and during migration, barn swallows usually gather to spend the night in groups at the water’s edge, mainly in reed beds.

THREATS – protection

The barn swallow is a common species, globally not threatened at present. Nevertheless, a marked decline has been noted since the end of the 20th century in Western Europe, the causes of which are multiple. Its dependence on human buildings makes it vulnerable. For example, the disappearance of old-fashioned stables and barns deprives it of its traditional nesting sites. The profound modification of agricultural environments linked to the modernization of agriculture and the intensive use of pesticides of all kinds deprive it of its resource. There is a lot of evidence that the global entomofauna is becoming scarcer and that the species is suffering from an unprecedented loss of diversity.

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