Swallows are small birds with dark metallic blue backs, reddish throats, white bellies and long forked, streamer-like tails. When they fly they can look totally black – it’s easiest to recognise them by their long tail and skimming flight. They are common throughout Ireland between April and September.
Swallows chatter and burble to each other when they sit on wires or along the edges of buildings - they may even wake you up! They fly north to Europe in springtime to breed, nest and raise their young.
Swallows build nests made from a mixture of saliva and mud in the shape of a small bowl, often inside sheds and other buildings.
How do I tell the difference between a Swallow and a Swift?
A Swift is noticeably larger than a Swallow, and its wings are longer, significantly narrower, and scythe-shaped. The Swallow has more „flexible” wings which can clearly be seen to bend in flight. The tail of a Swallow is longer and much more noticeably forked. You should remember that Swallows are generally more common in the countryside, while Swifts are more often found in cities.
How do I tell young Swallows from adults?
Young Swallows are a bit smaller and have shorter tails than their parents. If you live on a farm, you can probably find a nest in the old buildings, under a wooden beam or a rafter. If you are very quiet you might see a little bit of Swallow family life – there may be some chicks being fed insects by their parents.
What do they eat?
Mostly flying insects, and more rarely insects caught in flight from the ground or from the surface of water; very rarely they also catch insects when sitting on plants or on the ground.
The nest is usually hidden inside a building or under a bridge. It usually is in the shape of a quarter-sphere made of mud or clay mixed with long blades of grass and straws. It is usually attached to a wall, beam,or cornice, and is always open from the top.
European birds spend the winter in the western part of Africa, from the equatorial zone up to the southern edge of the continent.
The population of Swallows in Europe
Swallows are common and their population is quite stable in Europe, although destruction of their environment and natural surroundings could threaten their future.