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Northern Rough-winged Swallow


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A plain brown bird, the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is fairly common across the United States in summer. The species derives its name from the outer wing feathers, which have small hooks or points on their leading edges.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.7–5.9 in
12–15 cm
10.6–11.8 in
27–30 cm
0.4–0.6 oz
10–18 g
Other Names
  • Hirondelle à ailes hérissées (French)
  • Golondrina ala de sierra, Golondrina alirraspos, Norteña (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The function of the rough wing edge of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is not known.
  • The barbs on the primary feathers of the male Northern Rough-winged Swallow are distinctly hooked; those of the female are smaller and straighter. Running a finger from base to tip along the barbed wing edge yields a sensation similar to that of touching a rough file.
  • The Greek genus name of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx, means "scraper wing;" the Latin species name, serripennis, means "saw feather."
  • In one documented case, a Northern Rough-winged Swallow pair nested inside a Civil War cannon.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Rough-winged Swallow was a male, and at least 5 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased in California.



Breeds in a wide variety of open habitats, with openings in various vertical surfaces, including banks, gorges, and human structures.



Flying insects.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
4–8 eggs
Egg Description
Condition at Hatching
Helpless with sparse down.
Nest Description

Nests in burrows or cavities in various substrates. Probably uses burrows made by other species, but may dig its own nest.

Nest Placement



Aerial Forager

Catches insects in flight, often close to ground or water surface.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Northern Rough-winged Swallow populations declined by 26% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 15 million with 81% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 53% in Mexico, and 8% breeding in Canada. They rate a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not listed in the 2014 State of the Birds Report. These swallows generally adapt well to environments affected by human activity.


Range Map Help

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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