Living Bird Magazine
Bank SwallowRiparia riparia
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Hirundinidae
The svelte and speedy little Bank Swallow zips through the air with quick twists and buzzy wingbeats. Look for them in chattering nesting colonies dug into the sides of sandy cliffs or banks, or pick them out of mixed swallow flocks as they catch insects over the water. These birds occur on all the continents except Australia and Antarctica—but in North America their numbers have mysteriously plummeted since 1970, and they are recognized as a Common Bird in Steep Decline.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for nesting Bank Swallows in banks and bluffs along rivers and lakes, where they can occur in colonies of up to 2,000 nests. These birds stick to open, wet areas and steer clear of forested habitats. Their harsh, doubled call note is distinctive as they pass overhead. Also, remember that flocks of swallows often contain several species—so linger with big flocks and keep your eyes out for a slightly smaller, brown swallow with quick, fluttery wingbeats—then look for the neat brown band across the chest.
- Avión Zapador (Spanish)
- Hirondelle de rivage (French)
- Cool Facts
- Bank Swallows are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world. In the Old World, this species is known as the Sand Martin.
- Bank Swallows nest in burrows in banks and sandy cliffs. In recent years, they have started to nest in gravel and sand piles in construction sites and freight yards. The small birds dig the burrows themselves, using their feet, wings, and bill.
- Male Bank Swallows are able to distinguish heavier, apparently more receptive, female birds in flight and preferentially chase them for mating.
- The oldest known Bank Swallow was at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased at a banding station in Wisconsin.