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Violet-green Swallow


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

These aerial insectivores perform acrobatic stunts over lakes and streams high in the sky in search of flying insects. Violet-green Swallows can look dark at first, but their true colors come to life when sunlight illuminates their metallic green backs and iridescent purple rumps. They are a common sight in the West in spring and summer, but they vanish to Mexico and Central America for the winter. They can be distinguished from other swallows by the white patches on the sides of their rump and their white cheeks.


Although the Violet-green Swallow is a member of the songbird group, its song is a simple series of chirps and is only heard during the pre-dawn hours.


Their calls are the most frequently heard sounds. In flight they give a short chee-chee, which they often string together for several seconds as they interact with other swallows. They twitter during courtship and territory establishment or in combination with other calls. When defending the nest site, they sometimes give a sharp zwark.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

If you live near an open woodland or lake, Violet-green Swallows may nest in your yard, especially if you put up a nest box or leave standing dead trees on your property. Nest boxes can be placed on buildings, live trees, dead trees, or a pole 9–15 feet above the ground. Because Violet-green Swallows often like to nest in small groups, consider putting up more than one nest box at least 30 feet apart. Find out more about nest boxes on All About Birdhouses, where you'll find plans to build your own nest box for Violet-green Swallows.

Find This Bird

One of the best places to look for Violet-green Swallows is to head out to a river, pond, or lake early in the morning and keep your eyes to the sky. Watch for birds swooping and twittering over the water snatching up insects. They tend to be in groups from 10 to over 100 and they often hang out with other swifts and swallows. To pick one out of the crowd look for the white saddlebags on the sides of the rump and a clean white belly. It can be difficult to get a good look at flying Violet-green Swallows, but you might have an easier time following one with your binoculars if you spot one a little bit further away. That way the swallow won't zip out of your field of view as soon as it enters. They often perch on power lines and dead trees, so you’ll be able to get a better look at perched birds in those spots.

Get Involved

Provide nesting habitat for Violet-green Swallows by building a nest box. Learn more at NestWatch and start contributing valuable information about the breeding biology of Violet-green Swallows.

You Might Also Like

Read about a unique observation of a large group of Violet-green Swallows bathing in the Naturalist’s Notebook: Violet-Green Swallows, Living Bird, Summer 2009.

In California’s Oak Woodlands, 5 Species Divvy Up Habitat To Improve Nest Success, All About Birds, May 18, 2016.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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