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Barn Swallow


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Glistening cobalt blue above and tawny below, Barn Swallows dart gracefully over fields, barnyards, and open water in search of flying insect prey. Look for the long, deeply forked tail that streams out behind this agile flyer and sets it apart from all other North American swallows. Barn Swallows often cruise low, flying just a few inches above the ground or water. True to their name, they build their cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.


Both male and female Barn Swallows sing a “twitter-warble” song during courtship and egg-laying, with a long series of continuous warbling sounds followed by up to a dozen rapid, mechanical-sounding whirrs. The song can last 4–20 seconds and is often introduced and followed by a chirp.


Barn Swallows give a cheep call when threatened, and when predators approach too close to a nest site, a churee whistle will send adults diving at the threat. In colonies, this call may flush all of the adults from their nests and set them circling above a predator. Males apparently may foil their mate’s attempt to copulate with another male by giving a “fake” alarm call. Both sexes also give an agitated, stuttering call when chasing other Barn Swallows away from nest sites or mates.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Barn Swallows don't come to seed or suet feeders, but they may take ground-up eggshells or oyster shells placed on an open platform feeder. If you have a suitable outbuilding, leaving a door or window open can encourage Barn Swallows to build a nest inside. Providing a source of mud will also help with nest building. Barn Swallows may use artificial nest cups attached to an appropriate surface.

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Find This Bird

Look for Barn Swallows feeding above meadows, fields, and farmyards and over water, or perched on wires near feeding areas and nesting sites. During the breeding season keep an eye on mud puddles, as Barn Swallows come to the ground to pick up mud and grass for nesting materials. Their mud nests are often tucked under the eaves of barns and stables, on structures near playing fields, or under bridges. You can find Barn Swallows across most of North America.

Get Involved

Barn Swallow is one of the focal species in our Celebrate Urban Birds citizen-science project.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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