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bird Swallows

Identify It >   Birds Section >   Swallows >

Scientific name:  Hirundo rustica

Size:  Approx 18 to 20cm

Distribution:  Found in most parts of the UK

Months seen:  April to October

Habitat:  Farmland, meadows and villages

Life span: Up to 16 years

Food:  Insects

Special features:  Swallows, or Barn Swallows as they are sometimes known, have blue-black plumage on the back, head and collar, and a reddish-brown neck and forehead.  The males have one extra long feather on each side of their tail known as a streamer.

Swallows arrive in Britain from late March onwards.  They fly in from South Africa, a journey of around 10,000 km (6,000 miles) which takes them about a month.

They come here for fresh supplies of insects and to nest and raise their young.  Very often they will choose the same area to nest, and sometimes even the same nest.

Swallows nest in outbuildings such as sheds and farm buildings, and also under the eaves of houses.  The nest is made from mud and straw and lined with feathers.

Swallows are very acrobatic fliers, and all their food is caught on the wing.  They can even drink on the wing, by skimming the surface of ponds and scooping up the water with the lower half of their beak.

In early autumn swallows can often be seen gathering in large flocks on telephone wires, prior to their epic migration back to South Africa.

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