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swallowTree Swallows

Identification and Pictures

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) 5 to 6 inches

Tree SwallowTree swallows are Metallic blue-black, or gray black above, and bright white below.  They have forked tails and short legs for their body size.  The young are dusky or brownish on top.  Females may keep the dusky color into their first or second breeding season, and they may have brownish foreheads.  Tree swallows are often mistaken for Violet-Green Swallows.

 Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D and a 70 to 300 zoom lens.

Tree swallows are fun to watch as they glide in circles, ending each circle with several quick flaps of their wings as they climb higher.

Swallow familyTree Swallow

The swallows and martins are a group of passerine birds in the family Hirundinidae, with 75 species around the world. They are all streamlined and very graceful flyers.  Identifying characteristics are short legs, tiny feet, long pointed wings, and short wide bills.  Swallows have the more forked tail while Martin's tails are squarer.


Tree swallows like open country near water such as lakes, streams, or rivers, and open areas near woods.  They can be found through much of Canada, Alaska, and the U.S. in summer.  They winter along the Gulf Coast, in Florida and into Mexico, and Central America.

Breeding and Nesting

During courtship the male will show the female possible nesting sites.  They build a cup size nest lined with feathers in a tree hole, building or nest box.  Often they will use nest boxes put up for bluebirds.

The female will lay 4 to 6 white eggs.  She will incubate these for around 15 days.  Both parents will feed the nestlings and the fledglings will be able to leave the nest in about 3 weeks.  The young birds will be strong flyers when they leave the nest.  They will be fed by the parents for a short time, but it is not long before they are skilled at catching insects.     swallow egg

After the breeding season Swallows migrate to their wintering homes in southern U. S. or Central America .

Sound of Tree Swallows

Song is a liquid gurgling twitter repeated with variations, call note trit or chi-veet.

         Sound 1      Sound 2


Like all swallows, the streamlined bodies of Tree Swallows give them the flying ability to be excellent at hunting insects on the wing.  While flying insects are their main diet, they will also eat berries in the winter.

Barn-swallow-young Get Swallow posters

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