IdentificationHow To Tell a Tree Swallow from a Barn Swallow

How To Tell a Tree Swallow from a Barn Swallow

Tree Swallow next to two Barn Swallows. Photo by Joe Chapuis
Tree Swallow at top with two Barn Swallows below. Notice snow white breast on Tree Swallow, and forked tail on Barn Swallows.  Photo by Joe Chapuis in CT.

There are 86 bird species called “swallows.”  Two of the Tachycineta species use nestboxes – Tree Swallows and Violet-Green Swallows.  Barn Swallows look like Tree Swallows and are also aerial insectivores, but are a different species – Hirundo rustica. They build open cup nests made of mud in places like barn rafters (hence the name.)

The easiest ways to tell them apart are in flight, since Barn Swallows have a scissor or forked tail (Tree Swallows do not), and Barn Swallows also have a red throat, while the throat of a Tree Swallow is snowy white.


He flies through the air with the greatest of ease
– George Leybournere,referring to a daring young man on the flying trapeze.


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