Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Northern Rough-winged Swallow specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (5-5 ¾ inches) swallow, the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is most easily identified by its brown back, light brown breast and throat, and notched tail. This species may be distinguished from the similarly-colored Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) by that species’ smaller size and contrasting pale breast and distinct brown breast patch. Male and female Northern Rough-winged Swallows are similar to one another in all seasons. The Northern Rough-winged Swallow breeds across the United States and southern Canada, as well as in Mexico and Central America. Most North American populations spend the winter from the Gulf coast and the Colorado River Valley south to Central America. Most tropical populations, as well as those breeding in the extreme southern U.S., are likely non-migratory. Northern Rough-winged Swallows breed in a variety of open habitats near suitable nesting sites, preferring to build their nests on cliffs, riverbanks, or, in modern times, bridges and buildings. During the winter, migrant populations generally congregate near small to medium-sized bodies of water. This species exclusively eats flying insects. As is the case with most swallow species, it is possible to observe Northern Rough-winged 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. Northern Rough-winged Swallows are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common summer resident, April to September. Breeds from mid-April to late June. Inhabits areas near salt or fresh water. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Stelgidopteryx serripennis

Stelgidopteryx serripennis