Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica
Range Map

The Barn Swallow is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. In Europe it is called simply “Swallow”. Most scientists believe these birds evolved to nest primarily in caves, but very few populations continue to do so. Now nearly all nesting takes place on man-made structures.

World-wide, there are six recognized subspecies of Barn Swallow. The American subspecies is Hirundo rustica erythrogaster. Our swallow winters from Central America and south to northern Chile and Argentina, but when spring approaches these birds fly north to breed from Mexico to Canada and southern Alaska. There are no states in the USA where Barn Swallows don’t show up to make their summer homes. Look for them sailing low over open water or grassy fields intercepting their winged prey. Often, two broods are raised in a season, so it is imperative that a good parent capture many insects to feed their hungry chicks.

Science recognises at least seven subspecies of Barn Swallow:

  • H. r. rustica breeds from western Europe through Russia, and south to northwestern Africa. They spend winters in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, the southern Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.
  • H. r. savignii lives in north-central Egypt.
  • H. r. transitiva mostly resident in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.
  • H. r. tytleri breeds from central Siberia, south to northern Mongolia and northeastern China. They spend winters in eastern India and southeastern Asia.
  • H. r. gutturalis breeds from the Himalaya region through much of China to Kamchatka and Japan. They spend winters in Southeast Asia, south to northern Australia and west to India and Africa.
  • H. r. mandschurica breeds in northeastern China, and spends winters in Southeast Asia.
  • H. r. erythrogaster breeds across North America and South America, and spends winters on the Pacific slopes of central Mexico, Panama, the eastern Caribbean, and south through most of South America.

California, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas have each provided me with intersting encounters with this species.

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