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Swallows

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: chordate
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae

General Information    Different Species of Swallows    Beneficial Swallows    Pest SwallowsViolet Green Swallow

The Swallow gets is name from catching the insects they eat in mid flight.  Its feet are designed for perching instead of walking and its front toes are joined at the base.  Both the adult female and male swallow are similar in color. They have metallic royal blue upperparts and breast, cream to buff colored under parts, reddish brown forehead, chin and throat.  They also have white markings on the inside of their tails.  Their bill and legs are black.  The female swallows tail streamers are shorter than the male.  The juvenile is a duller color that the adults and lack the color in its forehead, chin and throat and its tail is much shorter.

Swallows build mud nests close to overhead shelter in areas protected by the weather and predators.  Cave and cliff species nest in large colonies.  Swallow eggs are smooth, glossy and white with reddish speckles.  The female incubates the eggs and when hatched the young are fed by both parents.  The swallow will fly through the air and collect insects in the back of its throat and bring it back to the nest.  Adult swallows will keep the same mate for life.

Different Species of Swallows

There are several species of swallow found in the North America: 

Barn Swallow    Tree Swallow    Violet-Green Swallow    Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

The Barn Swallow is distinguished from other American swallows by its deeply forked tail and rust colored under parts.  This six inch long bird is found in Alaska east to Newfoundland, Canada and south to California and east to North Florida in farmlands, suburbs, marshes and lakeshores.  They eat grasshoppers, beetles, moths and other flying insects in mid air.  They can make sharp turns at high speeds in order to catch insects in great numbers. 

Barn SwallowThe barn swallow nests in colonies and hunt together.  If the nest is approached by a predator or human, the entire colony will mob the intruder using aerial acrobatics.  They hunt near the ground over open fields and near water.  The favorite site to nest is of course in a barn, hence its name "Barn Swallow."  They also nest in other out buildings.  During mating season, the male attracts the female by spreading his wings and singing and they often mate in the air. The Barn Swallow is the most widespread of all swallows.

The Tree Swallow is a migratory bird that breeds in North America and winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. This five inch long bird has a tiny bill, blue green coat of feathers, white breast and slightly forked tail.Tree Swallow  The female has duller colors than the male while the juvenile has a dull grayish brown coat and gray breast.  They nest in natural or artificial cavities near water and often in large flocks.  They also nest in boxes built for bluebirds. The nest of the tree swallow is made of layers of grasses, thin twigs and feathers from other species.  The adult female lays four to seven white eggs that hatch in fourteen days.  The baby birds are blind and bald when born.Violet-Green Swallow

The Violet-Green Swallow is found in North America from Alaska to Mexico.  They are identified by their velvet green feathers and white chest and forked tail.  They also have white patches on the side of its rump.  This small bird is very similar to the tree sparrow.  They nest in tree cavities and rock crevices and migrate during the winter to Central or South America.

The Northern Rough-Winged Swallow is identified by it brown top feathers, light under parts and forked tail.  They Northern Rough-Winged Swallow have a dusky throat and breast.  They are closely related to the southern rough winged swallow found in South America. The northern rough winged swallow breeds near streams, lakes and riverbanks in North America and nest in cavities near water.  They burrow in the dirt for food and donít form colonies.  The female lays four to eight eggs in her nest. During the winter, they migrate to the gulf coast and to South and Central America. 

Swallows as Beneficial Birds

Swallows are most often a welcome site to farmers, gardeners and the general public.  This bird might be small but it often gathers in large numbers; couple this with their voracious appetite for flying insects and you have quite a pest control friend.  It is only when the location of their nests that can sometimes make them a pest to public buildings and homes.  As shown in Pest Swallows, their nesting materials, feces and their association with parasites (which often invade buildings inhabited by humans) that can make this insect feeding bird a pest bird that might need controlling.


Pest Swallows

The swallow can cause damage in suburban areas from its nesting habits.  The mud that forms the nest can deface outer walls and eves of residences and office buildings.  The sides of buildings also end up smeared with feces from large colonies.  Parasites from the birds enter buildings through cracks next the nest. Picture of Swallow Nests
Bacteria, fungal agents and parasites are found in droppings and nests carry diseases such as histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis, toxoplasmosis and more.

Control Methods

The best control products for unwanted birds, which will not harm the birds, are bird spikes and professional grade ultrasonic devices.  The Ultrason X will make birds feel unwanted in targeted areas.  When possible, use Bird Spikes to stop birds from nesting or resting on ledges.  In severe cases, both electronic devices and spikes are used in combination to deter swallows from areas where they have become a pest or hindrance.

Credits: Thanks to Lani Powell for providing information on Swallows!

Bird Control Products    Animals and Pests    Pest Control Information    Nuisance Birds    Swallows