The bird swallow. How it looks and what it eats

Because of the long human experience with the swallows had many myths and legends. People believed that the presence of these birds protects farm animals from disease and curses, and buildings from fires.

According to superstition, these birds are a good omen to those at sea. This is probably due to the fact that the swallows are ground-dwelling birds, so their appearance informs the sailors about the proximity to the shore.

During the nineteenth century Jean Desobry tried to tame and train them for use as a mail bird. He managed to restrain the migratory instinct in young birds and to convince the government of France to conduct initial testing, but further experiments stalled, as swallow does not make captivity, mating only in the wild.

Swallowsare a family (with a large number of species) in passerine birds. They are found worldwide on all continents except Antarctica. Highly adapted for feeding on the fly, they have a distinctive appearance. 19 in childbirth there are about 83 species, with greatest diversity in Africa. These birds are also found on several oceanic Islands. European and North American species are migratory birds; on the contrary, West and South African species do not migrate.

One of the most common species in Eurasia is the house Martin or house Martin. The house Martin is a migratory species and in winter migrates to Africa and Asia.


Swallows have an evolutionary conservative body shape which is different from the rest of the birds in the passerine. They have adapted to catching insects in flight, so they have thin, streamlined body and long pointed wings that provide greater manoeuvrability. Body shape delivers a powerful flight; the speed of metabolism in swallows in flight at 49-72% lower than equivalent passerines of the same size.

Body length ranges from 10 to 24 cm and a weight of from 10 to 60 g. Wings long, pointed, and have nine primary feathers. The tail is deeply forked which increases maneuverability.

The legs are short. They are adapted for planting, not for walking, as the front toes partly joined at the base. These birds are able to walk and even run, but they do it, hobbling gait.

The most common plumage in urban and barn swallows – glossy dark blue. Species that live in burrows or live in dry or mountainous areas are often matte brown color. The floors have limited sexual dimorphism or the lack of sexual dimorphism, with longer outer tail feathers adult male are probably the most common difference.

Distribution and habitat

Swallows have a cosmopolitan distribution worldwide on all continents except Antarctica.

This family uses a wide range of habitats and depend on flying insects, which can be found in any open habitat, including:

  • meadows;
  • open woodland;
  • Savannah, swamps;
  • mangroves and shrubs;
  • from sea to high mountain areas.

Many species live in the man-modified landscapes, including agricultural land and even urban areas. Land use change also has led to the fact that some species expanded their habitat. The most impressive example is the swallow, which colonised New Zealand in the 1920s and now is normal for this country bird.

The species living in the temperate region migrate in winter. There are several tropical species are partial migrants or make shorter migrations.


Males choose the location of the nests, and then attract a female using song and flight. The size of the territory varies depending on the species; the colonial nesting birds of the area tends to be small. Outside the breeding season some species may form large flocks. It is believed to provides protection from predatory birds. Non-social species do not form flocks, but the Chicks can stay with their parents for some time after the breeding season.

What is the swallow

For the most part swallows are insectivorous, catching insects flying in the air. The composition of prey in the diet varies depending on species and time of year. Individual species may be selective, they do not catch every insect around them, but instead select larger prey. They also avoid certain types of prey, particularly insects such as bees and wasps.

That eat swallows

Swallows are generally after:

  • beetles;
  • flies;
  • mosquitoes;
  • horseflies;
  • midges;
  • butterflies;
  • grasshoppers, etc.

Sometimes these birds are spiders flying through the air on the web.

In addition to insects, several species occasionally consume fruits and other plants. In Africa, there were cases when these birds eat seeds of trees.

Where several species of swallow feed together they will be separated into different niches based on height off the ground.


Some species, such as the city swallows nest in existing cavities of buildings, and other species dig burrows in soft substrate such as sand banks. Mud nests are most common in the Old world and in Africa. A cave, coast and rocky nesting swallows form large colonies. Nests are built by males and females.

In historical times the introduction of man-made stone structures such as barns and bridges, have led to an abundance of convenient nesting places around the world, which greatly increased the reproduction of some species.

Birds living in large colonies, has to contend with both ectoparasites and specific nest parasitism.

Pair these birds are monogamous, and a pair of non-migrating species often remain near nesting areas year round, although breeding place of the most actively protected only during the breeding season. Migratory species often return to the same breeding area and can choose the same area for nesting.

All the swallows defending their nests from predators. In General, the contribution of males in parental care is the highest of all passerines.

The eggs of swallows, usually white, although some mud nests spotted. The average size of masonry is four to five eggs in temperate areas and two to three eggs in the tropics. Incubation responsibilities are shared in some species, in others the eggs are incubated solely by the females. Among species where males help with incubation the contribution varies amongst species, with some species, such as rocky Robin, divide the responsibilities equally.

Even in species where males do not incubate eggs, the male may sit on them when the female leaves to reduce the loss of heat (this is in contrast to incubation, because it does not involves the heating of eggs, and only prevention of heat loss).

From the newly born Chicks no feathers and even feathers. Eyes closed and open after about 10 days. In General, the Chicks develop slowly swallows compared to other passerine birds.

Swallow singing

Swallows can produce many different sounds are used to Express excitement, to communicate with other swallows of the same species, during courtship or as an alarm when a predator is in the area. Songs of the males associated with the body condition of the bird and are presumably used by females to judge the physical condition and suitability for mating of males. The typical song of swallows is a simple, sometimes musical twittering.

Relationships with people

Swallows are welcomed by people because of their useful role as a destroyer of insects, and swallows the city can easily adapt to nesting in and around human habitation.

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