Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)


French: Hirondelle rustique German: Rauchschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina común

Hirundo rustica


, 1758,



Has sometimes been considered conspecific with H. lucida. Taxonomy uncertain; races possibly constitute two or more species, with sister-taxa in North America and Siberia. American race erythrogaster most resembles E Asian forms in colour and breastband pattern, but mtDNA studies, combined with behaviour, suggest that it may be a separate species from that in Old World; proposed race insularis, from islands in N Gulf of Mexico, considered inseparable from mainland breeders. Races savignii and saturata distinctive. Populations in Eurasia intergrade; mandschurica often included in saturata, which itself is often subsumed into gutturalis or tytleri; birds from N India (Sikkim), originally described as separate race ambigua, probably belong in gutturalis, although sometimes included in nominate. In addition, clinal variation apparent: tail length decreases from N to S, and in Eurasia size decreases from NW & NE to S & E. Hybridizes rarely with Petrochelidon pyrrhonota and P. fulva in America, and with Delichon urbicum in Europe and Asia. Eight subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. r. erythrogaster Boddaert, 1783 – American Barn Swallow – North America from S Alaska and W & S Canada (S from S Yukon, CW Mackenzie, N Saskatchewan, N Manitoba, N Ontario, SC Quebec and S Newfoundland) S through most of USA (except extreme SW, also S Florida) to Mexico (NW Baja California, and interior S to Colima, Michoacán and Puebla); also South America in E Argentina (N Buenos Aires). Winters from Pacific slope of C Mexico and W Panama, and E West Indies (Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles), S through most of South America.
  • H. r. rustica Linnaeus, 1758 – Eurasian Barn Swallow – Europe and W Asia from Ireland, Britain and N Scandinavia E to C Russia (E to R Yenisey), W Mongolia and W China, S to Mediterranean, N Africa (E to Libya), Iraq, Iran and C Himalayas; winters mainly sub-Saharan Africa, also S Asia, S Iberian Peninsula and N Africa. Recently found breeding in C Arabia (Riyadh)#R.
  • H. r. savignii Stephens, 1817 – Egypt (Nile Valley).
  • H. r. transitiva (E. J. O. Hartert, 1910) – Lebanon, Syria, Israel and W Jordan.
  • H. r. tytleri Jerdon, 1864 – SC Siberia (R Yenisey E to Yakutskaya) S to N Inner Mongolia; winters E India and SE Asia.
  • H. r. saturata Ridgway, 1883 – E Russia (Kamchatka and Sea of Okhotsk coast S to mid-Amur Basin); winters SE Asia.
  • H. r. mandschurica Meise, 1934 – NE China; winters SE Asia.
  • H. r. gutturalis Scopoli, 1786 – E Himalayas, S, C & E China, Korea and lower R Amur E to Kuril Is, Japan and Taiwan, also possibly irregularly in Kamchatka; winters S & SE Asia S to N Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    17–19 cm; 16–24 g. Distinctive plumage pattern and long tail-streamers. Male nominate race has forehead rufous-chestnut, crown and upperparts glossy steel-blue;... read more


    Song is a rapid twittering often ending in a harsh rattle; main contact call is “witt-witt... read more


    Open country, cultivation, human habitations, often near water. In Europe and North America mainly... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet varies within and between years and sites, depending on local availability of insects. More than 80 insect families recorded in diet:... read more


    Mainly May–Aug, starting later at higher latitudes (e.g. early Jun in Finland) and earlier in S (e.g. from Feb–Mar in N Africa... read more


    Mainly long-distance migrant. On breeding grounds mainly Apr–Oct; forms large post-breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally very common and widespread, but marked declines in some areas. In terms of population size and range, has probably... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 February 2020).