Bird Sounds: Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow Calls

April 29, 2016
Barn Swallow (Canada)

Adult Barn Swallow (American)

Paul Reeves/Shutterstock

Hear the song of the Barn Swallow! Look for this friend of the farmer flying low over fields, meadows, and water, snagging insects on the wing. See how they nest (yes, in barns!) and listen to their bird sound.

The Barn Swallow is one of the most common bird species in the world. They may look like a sparrow as their size is similar but just look for their distinctive long, pointed wings and forked tail. The bird’s body is usually a tawny or cinnamon color as is the color beneath the wings. From above, the body and wings are a beautiful steely or deep blue. The head is a darker tawny or rusty color with a steely blue cap. 

Just as their name suggests, the barn swallow builds their small nests under the eaves of barns—as well as under porches, stables, bridges, and other buildings. Long ago, they nested exclusively in caves! Since they make their small cup-shaped nests out of mud, there must be a source of mud nearby (such as a river bank).

Barn Swallow nest with male bringing food to female and chicks. Credit: F. Yu/Shutterstock.

It’s amazing to watch Barn Swallows feed. They fly just above the ground to catch insects in the air. Their flight isn’t fluid but bursts of straight flight and quick turns and dives. 

The song of the swallow are classic warbling sounds, often lasting 5 to 20 seconds, interrupted by short mechanical-sounding whirrs. To us, it sounds quite chatty! Click the arrow above to listen. 

Have you heard a Barn Swallow? Add your comments below. Be sure to let us know where you live or where you’ve heard this bird sound before!

Bird sound compliments of The Macaulay Library at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here to listen to the sounds of other birds!

Reader Comments

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Barn swallows

Barn swallows return every year to the Island. I have a pair that builds the nest inside the goat barn over the door. Messy. Yes! I close the barn door at night because of predators. That pair knows when to come in or get locked out until morning. Some evenings they are perched on the rain gutter then swoop in as I approach to close the door. They have had hatchlings every year. I love their color and the fact they love to eat mosquitos.

Barnfull of swallows

I grew up with an old barn that was so "well ventilated" that it was impossible to keep the barn swallows out. There were so many of them that everything in the barn was always covered with their droppings, and the sound of their chirping was a constant cacophony that rose to a wild crescendo whenever we entered. I wish I could say I enjoyed them, but we looked forward to their departure in the fall. They stopped coming back at about the same time a flock of pigeons moved in, which was even messier!

Barn Swallows

I must say I love these little birds! In fact so much when we had our house repainted, I would not let them knock the nests down (the birds got a new paint job too!). I love to watch them fly and hear their distinctive calls. I have 2 nests on each side of my porch and one in my basement. So this 2021 year I had 6 batches of chicks to admire! I can’t wait for them to return next year.
P.S. Sometimes they are even house guests!
Gustine, California

Barn Swallow

we live in Mount St Patrick in Dacre, Ontario and we are lucky enough to have barn swallows they have had two sets of babies this summer both in a high tree and in our shed. They return to the same nest every year:)