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Swallows in Ireland


The swallow is one of Ireland's favourite birds. Their arrival heralds the arrival of summer. Swallows are small with dark, glossy blue backs, red throats, pale or white underparts and long tail streamers. They have black beaks, legs and feet.

Young swallows have a pale orange and their tail streamers are noticeably shorter than in the adult. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

They are very agile fliers and they spend most of their lives in flight. They are widespread breeding birds in Ireland, migrating south to Africa in autumn. They spend the winter in southern Africa. A migration that takes them across the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert.

Irish Name for Swallow

The Irish word for swallow is Fáinleogn.

Swallow Feeding

A swallow's diet is almost exclusively based upon flying insects such as flies, aphids, and flying ants, caught in flight. They can often be seen flying low over the ground or water with their beaks agape catching insects in huge numbers.

The swallow drinks by skimming low over lakes or rivers and scooping up water with its open beak.

Swallows Nesting

Swallow eggs in a nest

Swallows build a bowl-shaped nest out of mud in in barns and other buildings. They frequently return the same nesting place and reuse nests from previous seasons.

Both adults build the nest from mud and plant fibres usually against a beam or shelf in buildings or a ledge on cliffs. There are instances were nests have been reused for nearly 50 years.

The eggs of the Swallow are about 20 mm by 14 mm in size, and are smooth, glossy, and white with reddish speckles. The female incubates the eggs. Newly-hatched young swallows are fed by both adults. Once fledged, the youngsters receive food in mid-air from their parents.

Swallow in flight
A Swallow in Flight


Scientific Name: Hirundo rustica



Irish Status:
Summer breeding visitor

Length: 18cm Wingspan: 34cm Weight: M/F: 19g

Call: : Very vocal. The swallow song comprises several musical twittering notes followed by a short buzz. A “tswit-tswit” call is given when a bird of prey such as Sparrowhawk is spotted.

Habitat: Open countryside, parks, green areas - usually near water.

Diet: Flying insects caught in flight.

May - July
Breeding Age:
From 1 year
Number of Eggs:
No. of Clutches:
Incubation (days):
Fledging (days):
2 years

Conservation Status in Ireland: Amber


Swallow Range in Ireland

The swallow is a permanent resident and is widespread and common throughout Ireland.

Map of the range of swallows in Ireland.

Arctic Terns in Ireland - Blue Tits in Ireland - Coal Tits in Ireland - Goldfinches in Ireland - Great Tits in Ireland - Grey Herons in Ireland - Jackdaws in Ireland - Longtailed Tits in Ireland - Magpies in Ireland - Mallards in Ireland - Mistle Thrushes in Ireland - Mute Swans in Ireland - Pheasants in Ireland - Puffins in Ireland - Robins in Ireland - Rooks in Ireland - Song Thrushes in Ireland - Starlings in Ireland - Swallows in Ireland - Swans in Tallaght - Swans Oil-Damaged - Waxwings in Ireland - Woodpigeons in Ireland - Wrens in Ireland

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