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Barn Swallow

A. Mills

Hirundo rustica

Species at Risk Status

Federal Government status: Threatened

Provincial Government status: Threatened


  • This attractive small and sleek-looking swallow has cobalt blue back, tail and wings. Males have buffy orange underparts while females are buffy white. Both have rusty coloured foreheads and throats.
  • Easily recognized by their deeply forked tails.

Habits and Reproduction

  • Tend to fly close to the ground or water surface and catch flying insects such as flies, beetles and wasps. They favour larger insects rather than swarms of small flies.
  • Both male and female construct the cup-like nest from mud scooped from the water’s edge. The nest is lined with fine grasses and down feathers.
  • Three to five eggs are laid from mid-May to August with the peak activity in June. The eggs hatch in roughly two weeks and the young fledge two weeks later. Early nesting pairs will likely raise a second brood.
  • Older siblings and even non- related juvenile birds may help feed the hatchlings.


  • Grasslands and other open areas, including urban parks, which have structures for nesting. Preferred sites include eaves, rafters, and cross beams of barns and sheds, as well as the undersides of bridges, wharfs, and large culverts.


  • Populations of barn swallows in Ontario have decreased by 64% over the past forty years. The reasons for this decline are not well understood. Potential causes include:
  • pesticide use in both the breeding and wintering grounds.
  • acid precipitation which leads to depletion of calcium in aquatic insects.
  • climate change altering the hatch out dates of insect populations and long-distance migrants like swallows arrive after peak insect emergence.

Range Map

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