Living Bird Magazine
Northern Rough-winged SwallowStelgidopteryx serripennis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Hirundinidae
The Northern Rough-winged Swallow's plain brown back and dusky throat doesn't stand out, allowing it to sometimes go unnoticed in flocks of brighter swallow species. This common summer visitor flies low over water snatching insects in midair and rests on wires, posts, and exposed branches. It nests in burrows excavated by other birds and mammals, and spends the winters in Mexico and Central America. The species derives its name from the outer wing feathers, which have small hooks or points on their leading edges.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Northern Rough-winged Swallows are common throughout the United States and southern Canada during the summer. Look for them flying low over lakes, ponds, and rivers. They tend to fly lower to the water than other swallows and fly with slower and more deliberate wingbeats. They often occur singly or in small groups, but be sure to check groups of swallows as they tend to mix with other species, especially during migration.
- Golondrina Aserrada (Spanish)
- Hirondelle à ailes hérissées (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Northern Rough-winged Swallow gets its name from minuscule hooks on the leading edge of their primary feathers. Running a finger along the edge of the feather from base to the tip feels like touching a rough file.
- The genus name of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is Stelgidopteryx, which means "scraper wing"; the species name, serripennis, means "saw feather."
- Swallows are good fliers and that goes double for the Northern Rough-winged Swallow, which unlike most birds also molts some of its feathers while flying. It takes them around 100 days to finish growing new feathers.
- 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.