Swallows build solid nests out of mud pellets brought by the beakful from
puddles and river banks, combined with dry long grasses. With both parents
participating, these pellets are arranged much like bricks to form half-bowls
or saucers. Up to 1,000 trips may be made to bring the mudballs to make
the nest. The nest is lined with fine grasses, hair, curly feathers. Barn
Swallows usually nest in man-made structures that provide shelter (because
the mud would disintegrate in the rain) and warmth. Previously, they built
in cliffs or caves, but now prefer man-made structures such as bridges.
However, they show a strong preference for buildings in which cattle or
other domestic stock are kept. Hence their name. Although a few may nest
in the same area, they do not nest close to each other like some other Swallows
Common/Eastern Swallow, Layang Layang
Barn Swallows eat insects, taking them during flight. They appear
to have a preference for flies and mosquitos (Diptera). To
feast on swarming insects, they may join other birds like Swifts.
But unlike Swifts which simply trawl the air with their mouths open,
Swallows actually chase after individual prey and perform aerial acrobatics
to catch them. Swallows also hunt at lower levels than Swifts, particularly
during wet weather.
Swallows can perch and also come to the ground to drink or gather
nesting material. But they can also sip drinks of water on the wing.
Breeding: Barn Swallows breed
in the north from America through Europe to China. Females appear
to prefer males with long tails, as these show that he is well fed
and strong since extra nutrients are required to grow a longer tail.
They court with aerial chases, the pair often perching on a branch
to preen each other. They may mate in flight!
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Small (15cm); wing long; tail streamers.
Adult: Upperparts and breast
band metallic blue; forehead, throat, upper breast chestnut;
Male: Longer tail.
Juvenile: Duller and lacks
tail streamers; upperpart dark brown; chestnut replaced
with pinkish buff; breast band brown. Lacks elongated
outer tail feathers.
Call: Generally quiet. Described
as twittering calls while in flight: twit twit.
Each has its own song, but they may sing in chorus.
In flight: Graceful swoops
with regular wingbeats.
Status in Singapore: Very
common winter visitor throughout the island including
North and South offshore islands.
World distribution: Nearly
House Swift (Apus nepalensis): Flies with rapid
shallow flapping interspersed by gliding; wings longer,
slender scimitar-shaped; lacks tail streamers.
Pacific Swallow (H.
tahitica): Lacks the Barn's black breast band, whiter
underparts. Also lacks the tail streamers, but not diagnostic
because the Barn may lose its tail streamers during a
Classification: Family Hirundinidae.
World 89 species, Singapore 5 species.
4-5 white brown-spotted
eggs are laid. Both parents incubate, although the female does most of it,
for 15-17 days. The other parent feeds the brooding parent, and both rest
in the same nest at night. Hatchlings are born naked and helpless, fledging
in 18-23 days. They may raise more than one brood in a good season, with
their latest fledged juveniles helping out. When the young are able to fly,
the parents may continue to feed them and do so on the wing!
Migration: In winter, Barn Swallows
migrate in southwards to South America, Africa, India and Southeast Asia.
They travel in huge flocks and may cover up to 11,000km. Those that visit
Singapore breed in eastern Asia. They are seen year-round in Singapore because
the timetable of adult and juvenile migrations overlap. Barn Swallows are
often seen roosting in large flocks perched on overhead wires or man-made
structures. Madoc recounts that the birds roosted shoulder-to-shoulder on
telephone and electrical wires in such density that extra strong wires had
to be installed in affected areas!
Status and threats: Barn Swallows are
common in Singapore and not considered at risk. They are often considered
a pest because of their untidy and messy nests near human habitation. However,
they play an important role in controlling insect populations and can act
as a natural form of pest control in cultivated areas.
Diversity Website by Rebecca E. Line: fact sheet on all aspects
of their features, habits, habitat and status and threats.
of Nova Scotia from the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History: fact
sheet on features, breeding, migration; and lovely drawing.
of Manitoba On line: fact sheet on migration and breeding.
sheet on breeding, migration, sound clip of their call, photo of
Wildlife Research Centre: fact sheet, sound clip of their call,
photos of the birds and their eggs.
Place which features Pennsylvania's flora and fauna: fact sheet
with a lovely drawing of the bird.
- A replica of the
James Audubon's Birds of America (1840-1844) On a website by creative
multimedia corp: fact sheet with full text, color plates, figures and
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 224: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 105-106:
identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 86: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 93: habit, habitat).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 13: status in Singapore).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 115: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 37: brief description, drawing).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 130: description, habits, habitat).
- Dr. Harold G Cogger
(et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Swallows by P
A Clancey, 1993 (p. 394-395: habits, habitats and photo of nest).
- David Attenborough,
"The Life of Birds", Princeton University Press, 1998
(p. 91: hunting methods; p. 231: how they build their nests).
- John Palmer (ed.),
"Exploring the Secrets of Nature", Reader's Digest,
1994 (p. 259: about female's preference for long tails, and photo).