Bank Swallow

Riparia riparia
A Bank Swallow specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (4 ½ to 5 ½ inches) swallow, the Bank Swallow is most easily identified by its brown upperparts, white belly white throat, and dusty brown chest stripe separating the throat from the belly. This species may be separated from the similarly-patterned Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) by that species’ larger size and brown chin. The Bank Swallow occurs across much of the world. In the Americas, this species breeds from Alaska and central Canada south locally to the Mid-Atlantic region in the east and northern Mexico in the West, wintering on the Pacific coast of Mexico and further south to central South America. In the Old World (where it is known as the Sand Martin), this species breeds across Eurasia from Siberia south to North Africa and the Indian subcontinent, wintering across tropical Africa and South Asia. Historically, Bank Swallows bred in a variety of habitats near water, frequently building their nests on cliffs along the banks of rivers. Today, this species often nests on man-made structures such as buildings and bridges. In winter, this species is likewise found in habitats near water, including lakes, rivers, marshes, and reservoirs. Bank Swallows exclusively eat flying insects. As is the case with most swallow species, it is possible to observe Bank Swallows feeding on insects while in flight. Birdwatchers in this species’ breeding range may want to pay special attention to bridges or the eaves of buildings, as a careful search of these structures may reveal a nesting colony. Bank Swallows are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Summer resident, locally fairly common, early April to mid-September. Found near open water; nests in holes in sandy banks. Breeds mid-April to mid-July. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

Date:  9/9/1895
Collected By:  Wm Palmer
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  294765

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC46819 Riparia riparia (Sand Martin)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC46820 Riparia riparia (Sand Martin)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31293 Riparia riparia (Sand Martin)