Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

January 1994


Eight members of the swallow family Hirundinidae breed in North America: the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), violet-green swallow (Tachycineta thalassina), purple martin (Progne subis), bank swallow (Riparia riparia), northern rough-winged swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), cave swallow (Hirundo fulva), and the cliff swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota). Cliff and barn swallows are found throughout most of North America. Four basic conditions are found near most cliff and barn swallow nest sites: (1) an open habitat for foraging, (2) a suitable surface for nest attachment beneath an overhang or ledge, (3) a supply of mud of the proper consistency for nest building, and (4) a body of fresh water for drinking. All swallows are insectivores, catching a variety of insects. Cliff and barn swallows winter in South America. Swallows have a homing tendency toward previous nesting sites. Cliff swallow nests are gourd-shaped, enclosed structures with an entrance tunnel that opens downward. Cliff swallows usually begin laying eggs before the entrance tunnel is completed. Renesting will occur if nests or eggs are destroyed.