Barn SwallowHirundo rustica Linnaeus
Status Common in summer. Breeds. Barn Swallows generally arrive in the second half of April (average 23 April, earliest 10 April). They are found throughout the province in summer, especially in farming districts. Gatherings of migrants are often seen from mid-August through mid-September, but stragglers are frequent in this species, routinely last seen in November (average 14 November, latest 30 November). One on the Halifax East Christmas Bird Count on 19 December 1981 was well beyond these limits, and a bird on Sable Island on 9 February 1969 was thoroughly unexpected.
Description Length: 15-19 cm. Adult male: Upperparts iridescent blue-black; forehead, throat and upper breast rufous chestnut; rest of underparts buff; tail deeply forked, with white spots near tip of all but central feathers. Adult female: Similar but underparts paler and tail less forked.
Breeding Nest: Made of mud pellets and grass cemented together, lined with grass and feathers, and varying in shape to suit its location in a barn or other building. Usually it nests inside a barn, high up on the top rafters, but quite frequently lower sites will be chosen. It is not uncommon to find a nest outdoors under the protection of the roof of a house verandah, but such locations, for obvious reasons, are not always tolerated.
Eggs: 4-6; white, spotted rather uniformly with light brown. Nesting begins during the second half of May; one was seen gathering mud pellets on 20 May 1951 at Black River, Kings County. If the pair is successful, at least two broods are raised each year; and considering the lateness of some nestings, one wonders if they do not sometimes raise three. For instance, on 3 September 1952 at Black River a nest containing young was noted high up on the rafters in a barn; six days later, four young Barn Swallows were seen perched on a telephone wire in front of the barn, all with traces of natal down. On 12 September 1967 Cyril Coldwell watched four young leave a nest in his barn at Gaspereau, Kings County. They perched on the rafters and the parents fed them there all that day. One plausible explanation for these very late nestings is that they followed unsuccessful second nestings.
Range Breeds from central Alaska to Labrador and Newfoundland, south to the southern United States and northern Mexico. Winters from Mexico to Argentina. Found also in the Old World.
Remarks Evidence that migration is well under way by mid-August is provided by the following observation made on the late afternoon of 17 August 1939 at Moore's Meadows, just west of Kentville. An immense congregation of swallows was seen swarming over the mosquito-infested marsh. Their numbers were simply incredible; the air was filled with them. Of the hundreds that circled near enough for identification, all were Barn Swallows. They were feeding actively over an area of 200 ha, and as the shadows lengthened they began dropping into the clumps of alders that bordered the meadow, where they presumably spent the night. Late in the afternoon of the following day this marsh was revisited, but no swallows were to be found.
The Barn Swallow is readily distinguished from our other swallows by its deeply forked tail and its cinnamon-brown underparts.
Questions? Comments? E-mail us at: Museumfirstname.lastname@example.org
Credits and copyright information. Last updated February 20, 1998
Best viewed with Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 or later.
For further information contact Webmaster, Nova Scotia Museum.