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The Barn Swallow is a small bird easily recognized by its steely-blue upper-parts, cinnamon under-parts, chestnut throat and forehead, and deeply forked tail. Both sexes have similar plumage, but males have longer outer tail streamers than females and tend to be darker chestnut on their under-parts.

Barn Swallows can be easily distinguished from other swallows by their deeply forked tail with long outer tail streamers.

Weight: 17 to 21 g (0.6 to 0.7 oz). Length: 15 to 18 cm (5.9 to 7.1 in).

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The Barn Swallow is the most widespread species of swallow in the world and is found on every continent except Antarctica. It breeds across much of North America and winters throughout Central and South America.  In Canada, it breeds in all provinces and territories except Nunavut.

Range map information

Barn Swallows nest in man-made features such as buildings, garages, barns, bridges and road culverts, as well as natural habitats such as caves and crevices in cliff faces. They breed near open habitats, including meadows near wetlands, where they search for flying insects and can use mud to build their nests.

Barn Swallow nests are primarily made of mud, often mixed with grasses and stems, which they collect in their beak and attach to a ledge or vertical surface. They often return to the same nesting site and may even reuse an old nest from previous years.

Barn Swallows prefer to nest in human-made structures. It is estimated that only about 1% of Barn Swallows in Canada currently use natural nesting sites.

Like many other species of birds that feed on flying insects, the Barn Swallow experienced declines of about 78% since the 1970s. A 1.2% decline was recently estimated in the Canadian population over a ten-year period (2009-2019). The reasons for the declines are not well understood, but they are likely the impacts of multiple threats or cumulative effects affecting Barn Swallows on their breeding grounds, wintering grounds, and during migration.

Potential threats to Barn Swallow in the Northwest Territories include large-scale decline or some other change in insect populations, as well as direct and indirect mortality due to severe weather events (cold snaps). Nests located on human-built structures, such as buildings and culverts, can be destroyed if structures are modified during the nesting season. Habitat loss and degradation from human activities are also potential threats.

COSEWIC assessed Barn Swallow as Threatened in 2011 because of severe long-term population decline, then re-assessed it as a species of Special Concern in 2021. Barn Swallow was listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2017. The SARA provides protection for individual Barn Swallows and their residences. Barn Swallows and their nests are also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Dehcho Gwich'in Inuvialuit North Slave / Tłı̨chǫ Sahtú South Slave