The adult male Barn Swallow of the nominate subspecies H. r. rustica is 17-19 cm (6.7-7.5 in) long including 2-7 cm (0.79-2.76 in) of elongated outer tail feathers. It has a wingspan of 32-34.5 cm (12.6-13.6 in) and weighs 16-22 g. It has steel blue upperparts and a rufous forehead, chin and throat, which are separated from the off-white underparts by a broad dark blue breast band. A line of white spots across the outer end of the upper tail. The female is similar in appearance to the male, but the tail streamers are shorter, the blue of the upperparts and breast band is less glossy, and the underparts paler. The juvenile is browner and has a paler rufous face and whiter underparts.

Habitat and Distribution

The preferred habitat of the Barn Swallow is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, preferably with nearby water. It breeds in the Northern Hemisphere from sea level to typically 2,700 m but to 3,000 m in the Caucasus and North America, and it is absent only from deserts and the cold northernmost parts of the continents. Over much of its range, it avoids towns. In most common in open, low vegetation habitats, such as savanna and ranch land, and in Venezuela, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago.


The Barn Swallow typically feeds 7-8 m above shallow water or the ground. They follow animals to catch disturbed insects, but it will occasionally pick prey items from the water surface, walls and plants. Large flies make up most of the diet.


The Barn Swallow typically nests inside accessible buildings such as barns and stables, or under bridges and wharves. The neat cup-shaped nest is placed on a beam. It is constructed by both sexes, although more often by the female, with mud pellets collected in their beaks and lined with grasses, feathers. The female lays two to seven reddish-spotted white eggs. Incubation takes 14-19 days.

Calls and Songs

Their song is a cheerful warble, often ending with su-seer with the second note higher than the first but falling in pitch. Calls include witt or witt-witt and a loud splee-plink when excited. Alarm calls include a sharp siflitt and a flitt-flitt.