About sparrow-sized, the barn swallow has a dark steely blue back, rusty underparts, and darker, chestnut-colored forehead. Its key distinguishing feature is its long forked tail. When it flies it displays white spots in the webbing between tail forks.
The barn swallow is an aerial forager. It swoops and turns in spectacular flying aerobatics, taking insect prey (99 percent of its diet) from just above ground level over fields or grassy areas. It not only eats, but drinks on the wing. It makes nests of mud and almost always chooses a building for a nesting site-- a remarkable adaptation to human settlement.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, maybe nesting sites. The SBG with its adjacent open grassy area furnishes insect life; barn swallows often swoop over the open area from a perch on nearby utility wires. The Cornell Ornithology bird guide actually lists its habitat as “town.” There are few obvious nesting sites right in the SBG vicinity, though it is possible that barn swallows might nest in the horse shelter in the pasture just west of the Demonstration Gardens.
When can I see it?
Spring and summer. These amazing birds may winter as far south as the very tip of South America!