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Swallows have dark glossy blue backs, red throats, pale under parts and long distinctive tail streamers. The shape of the tail is important, as it is an indicator of status for the females to choose a male, they will choose the most symmetrical tail for a mate.

They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They arrive in Britain in late March, and depart in mid / late October. Swallows are found in areas where there is a ready and accessible supply of small insects. They are particularly fond of open pasture with access to water and quiet farm buildings. See our Swallow nest bowl.

Recent declines due to loss of habitat quality in both their breeding and wintering grounds mean they are an Amber List species.

The swallows have a cosmopolitan distribution across the world and breed on all the continents except Antarctica. There are numerous species, besides the one that frequents Britain.


Quick Facts

1709 days

Clutch Size
4-5 eggs

Egg Weight
1.9 g

Egg Size
20x14 mm

First Record
7th Century

Open country, usually near water, farmland

19 g

34 cm

18 cm

Status in UK
Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor

Conservation Status UK

Number in Britain
1.4 Million

20-22 days

Number of broods

First clutches laid
Early June

Age at First Breeding
1 year

Typical Lifespan
3 years

Maximum Recorded Age
11 years, 1 month

  • They are extremely graceful fliers changing direction in an instant and swooping to catch flying insects in their wide mouths.
  • Swallows always drink on the wing swooping low to sip the water.
  • They nest in secluded places, for example sheds, barns, chimneys and stables.
  • A brood of swallows may consume up to 160,000 insects by the time they fledge.
  • Swallows spend the winter in South Africa, flying out in September or October and return by early April.
  • Before people understood about migration, it was thought they hibernated under water  of ponds and lakes.

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