Grace on the Wing

Natives of North America and Eurasia, barn swallows are among the most beloved of songbirds, admired for their attractive plumage, graceful flight and voracious appetite for insects. Common above fields and wetlands, they fly low to the ground, feeding on the wing, and are easily identified by their navy-blue back, rusty throat, buff-colored chest, tapered wings and deeply-forked tail.

Before human settlers arrived, barn swallows nested on rock ledges or on thick tree limbs, constructing a cup of mud and grass. Today, they favor man-made structures, building their nest on wooden beams in the corner of barns or under bridges. Less colonial than most swallows, these attractive birds are usually seen alone or in small flocks and only a few pair generally nest in the same structure.

Arriving in late April, barn swallows raise 3-6 young and, by early October, depart for Central and South America (some migrate as far as Argentina); Eurasian birds winter in Africa or southern Asia. Traveling by day, they feast on insects as they go, stopping at night to rest. One can only begin to imagine the massive number of potentially harmful and destructive insects that these agile hunters consume in the course of a year!