Vancouver Avian Research Centre

.....Research - Conservation - Education
Species: Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor


The Tree Swallow is a common sight in open fields, meadows, marshes, ponds, lakeshores and other wetland areas where it uses its aerial acrobatics to feed on the wing.
It is especially adapted to its incredible aerial life by being slender and sleek.
Tree Swallows breed north to Alaska, across Canada, south and across the mid United States to North Carolina.


General: It is a broad winged swallow with smooth flowing flight having pointed wings and forked tail with short legs and small week feet. 15 cm long, 20g weight.

Adult Male:  Dark glossy greenish-blue above, white below. White cheek patch which does not extend above the eye.

Adult female:  Same as Adult Male

Juvenile Male: Brown above, white below with dusky wash across chest.

Juvenile female: Shows varying amount of adult colour on crown and back.

Similar Species: Juveniles could be confused with Bank Swallow which has a much darker and defined breast band. Violet Green Swallow adults have white flank patch and white above and behind the eye.

Behavior:  Watch the Tree Swallow darting, gliding and using abrupt turns feeding in flight from dawn till dusk on insects. And observe them perched in flocks in long rows on branches and wires.

Habitat: Open areas usually near water, including fields, marshes, shorelines and wooded swamps with standing dead trees.


During migration Tree Swallows gather in large roosts at night. They are diurnal migrants flying low to very high in loose flocks.
Unlike other swallows, this species can subsist for extended periods on seeds and berries allowing some coastal populations to winter as far north as Long Island.
A hole nester, the Tree Swallow depends on woodpeckers and other species that excavate and abandon cavities in dead trees, and to a lesser extend on nest boxes, which it accepts readily to lay 4-6 white eggs.

Habitat Conservation Status:
Over the past 25 years populations have increased in eastern and central regions and across the continent. However, Tree Swallows are vulnerable to habitat destruction and pollution in wintering and breeding areas.
Capture Rates

Although the most plentiful swallow around the banding station and breeding in the direct vicinity, as an aerial insectivore, Tree Swallows are difficult to capture as is reflected by generally low capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours). Capture rates do indicate however Tree Swallow presence from March through July and peaks in June as juveniles disperse. No captures from August to February reflect this long distant migrant's movement south during the winter months.

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