Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Alan Vernon/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Bank Swallow

Bank Swallow
Riparia riparia
Swallow-like Birds | Family: Swallows, Hirundinidae

An estimated 36% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

Listen:
 

Overview

Bank Swallows originally nested only in steep, sandy riverbanks, but, like other swallows, they have adapted to humans and now nest in the sides of man-made excavations. They breed in colonies of from two or three pairs to a few thousand. Most lay their eggs at the same time and thus later forage for their young at the same time. Such parents have an advantage: Swarms of flying insects are unevenly distributed and are more quickly located when many birds are searching together. The scientific name riparia is from the Latin word for "riverbank."

Description

4 3/4-5 1/2" (12-14 cm). Sparrow-sized; our smallest swallow. Brown above, dull white below; breast crossed by distinct brown band; tail notched. Northern Rough-winged Swallow is warmer brown, with dusky throat and without brown breast band.

Voice

Sharp, unmusical pret or trit-trit.

Nesting

4-6 white eggs in a grass and feather nest in a chamber at the end of a deep tunnel, which it digs near the top of a steep bank. Since it breeds in large colonies, nesting banks may sometimes appear riddled with holes.

Habitat

Banks of rivers, creeks, and lakes; seashores.

Range/Migration

Breeds from Alaska across northern Canada south to California, Texas, and Virginia. Winters in tropics. Also in Old World.