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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Swallows, Martins/Hirundinidae

Barn Swallow/Hirundo rustica - Adult

L ad. 17-21 cm (of which tail projection 3-6½), juv. 14-15 cm. Breeds commonly in cultivated areas with farmyards, small villages etc. Summer visitor (in Britain & Ireland mainly Apr-Oct), winters in Africa. Often roosts communally in reedbeds outside breeding season. Nest an open mud cup reinforced with plant material, placed on roof beam or projection inside barn, boathouse, under bridge, in culvert etc. Commonly hunts insects low over ground, often around legs of grazing cattle, but also at treetop height.
IDENTIFICATION: The symbolic swallow, well known to one and all through its breeding habits and through its characteristic appearance with long, pointed wings and deeply forked tail with wire-thin elongated streamers. Blue-glossed black above, white or buffish-white below (in most of Europe; see Variation below) with blue-black breast-band and blood-red throat and forehead. The red colour is surprisingly difficult to see on flying bird and at a little distance, when the swallow then looks mostly all dark on head and breast. When tail is spread while braking and turning, small white ‘windows’ are visible on outer tail-feathers. Flight fast and powerful with clipped beats, passing back and forth and often low above ground or water surface (may then drink in flight); less inclined than House Martin to make long, slow, curving glides. Sexes alike (but male has on average narrower and longer tail-streamers). - Juvenile: Short, blunt tail-streamers. Forehead and throat rusty buffish-white or brownish-pink (not blood-red). Upperparts with minimal blue gloss. - Variation: Birds along E Mediterranean coast (ssp. transitiva are reddish-buff below, and those in Egypt (savignii) deep rustyred.
VOICE: Noisy, its loud calls enlivening farmsteads and small villages. In ‘itinerant flight’ gives cheerful sharp ‘vit!’, often repeated two or more times. Mates preen each other and entertain the barn livestock with cosy chatter almost like Budgerigars. Cats are announced with sharp ‘siflitt’ notes and birds of prey with similar ‘flitt-flitt!’. The rather loud song consists of a rapid twitter now and then interrupted by a croaking sound which turns into a dry rattle.

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