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threatened and/or endangered

Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor


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Tree Swallow
credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Hirundinidae, Swallows view all from this family

Description ADULT Has blackish upperparts, but in good light note the blue-green sheen on the cap, back, rump, and wing coverts. Dark elements of plumage on head form a complete and discrete cap that extends below the eye. Underparts, including throat, are white. First-year females have browner upperparts, reduced sheen (or none at all) and white tips to tertials. JUVENILE Similar to dull adult (i.e. upperparts are brownish and no sheen is visible); often shows a faint gray-brown breast band.

Dimensions Length: 5-6 1/4"(13-16 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor (present mainly Apr-Sep) to a range of open habitats. Often feeds over water, where flying insects are typically abundant, and often nests in the vicinity of marshes and lakes. Winters across southern U.S. and Central America.

Observation Tips Easy to see, especially near freshwater. If you want to encourage this species' presence in your yard, site nest boxes in suitable trees.

Range Western Canada, Southeast, Florida, Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Great Lakes, California, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Eastern Canada, Southwest, Texas, Plains

Voice Call and song comprise a series of whistling chirps.

Discussion Distinctive swallow with contrasting, bicolored plumage. Colorful blue-green sheen on adult's dark upperparts is not always obvious in poor light and birds can look distinctly black and white. Catches insects on the wing and sometimes gathers in flocks when feeding is good; will also eat berries in winter months. In flight, note the broad pointed wings and slightly forked tail; narrow wedge of white (sides of rump) is usually visible at side of base of upper tail. Nests in natural tree holes, but will also use manmade nest boxes. Adult sexes are similar.