Martins are especially adapted to aerial life and in western North
America this swallow can been seen on the wing in urban and rural
The Violet-green Swallow is slender, sleek and the plumage is glossy
or iridescent; dark above and white below. They have long pointed
wings. This western swallow has a distinct white cheek extending
above the eye.
This species breeds primarily in western North America from central
Alaska and western Canada south to the Mexican highlands, rarely
occurring east of the Rocky Mountains. It winters mostly from Mexico
south to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Small and very short-tailed swallow; wingtips project well beyond
tail tip. Note white sides of rump. 13cm length, 14g weight.
Beneath, pure white. Above, soft velvety green or greenish bronze,
with a very faint shade of purplish-violet concentrated on the nape
into a transverse band. Often shows violet on the upper tail
Ear coverts partly or mainly white, almost encircling the eyes, more
extensive on adult male than on female and juvenile. A white patch
on each side of rump often brought close together so as to form an
apparently continuous white band.
Duller above than male.
Gray brown above; white except on rump may be mottled or grayish.
Looks smaller in flight than most other swallows. Resembles Tree
Swallow, but greener above with purple gloss, white on face almost
encircling the eyes, tail shorter and less forked. Also soars less
and wing beats more rapid. Juveniles of both species show variable
amounts of white on the flanks, so confusion between the two species
is most likely in juvenal plumage Juvenile Tree Swallow shows white
throat contrasting with dark ear-coverts and grayish chest; juvenile
Violet-green shows dingy throat and chest, blending more gradually
with darker areas on head.
Being a swallow, this and other swallows as well as martins spend
more time in daylight flight feeding and soaring than most other
North American passerines. It feeds in small groups or loose flocks.
Like most other swallows, they feed exclusively on insects caught in
flight, often at high altitudes. They nest both solitarily and in
colonies of up to 25 pairs. The birds are often highly gregarious
during foraging, migration, and when away from their nests, and
flocks of several hundred birds are commonly observed in these
Habitat Occurs principally in montane coniferous forests, often
nesting in inaccessible sites such as abandoned woodpecker holes in
tall dead snags. It is also common in western suburban areas nesting
in cavities in homes and buildings.
extensive distribution, less is known about the Violet-green Swallow
than nearly any other North American swallow. This swallow appears
to be the western counterpart of is congener, the Tree Swallow.
Of note, the male sings courtship songs in flight in the dark before
sunrise, repeating over and over tsip tseet tsip.
Females typically lay 4 to 6 eggs in an abandoned woodpecker hole,
crevice in a cliff, building, or bird box, often returning to the
same breeding site in successive years.
No documentation of
effects on numbers. This species domesticity and ability to nest
both in remote cliffs and near human habitation may have saved it
from harmful human impact. The introduction of the House Sparrow and
European Starling however, may have negatively influenced
populations in southern Canada, particularly in urban areas.
Migrating from Central America, the Violet-green Swallow
prefers mountainous coniferous forests for breeding. The low
capture rate (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per
100 net hours) from April through June reflect the small
number of Violet-green Swallows breeding at Colony Farm.