Bank Swallow

Riparia riparia iStock_000045769040Large


  • COSEWIC – Threatened
  • COSSARO – Threatened


  • The Bank Swallow is the smallest swallow in the Americas averaging 12 cm long.
  • It is a very slender songbird, with dark brown upperparts and wings, white underparts and a distinctive dark breast band.
  • Males and females are very similar in size and colour.
  • The Bank Swallow can be distinguished in flight from other swallows by fast, erratic wing beats and constant chattering vocalizations.


  • Bank Swallows are primarily insectivores and will feed singly, in pairs, or in flocks.
  • They catch insects in the air but will also eat land and water-based insects or spiders when available.

Habits & Reproduction:

  • Male Bank Swallows dig a 60-90-cm-long burrow then construct a soft nest of grasses, feathers, rootlets and leaves with the help of their female mate.
  • Females typically lay four or five white eggs.
  • Nests are constructed in natural or human-made settings so long as there is a vertical face in silt or sand deposits.
  • A nesting colony may range in size from 10-2000.


  • Bank Swallows live in low lying areas near rivers, streams, ocean coasts, or reservoirs.

    Photo by: Tianna Burke

  • Their territories usually include vertical cliffs or banks where they nest.
  • Bank Swallows were commonly found around natural bluffs or stream banks, these swallows now often populate human-made sites, such as sand and gravel quarries or road cuts.
  • The Bank Swallow migrates south for the winter, primarily to South America.
  • The Bank Swallow is found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.


  • Although widespread, this species is in steep decline amounting to a loss of 98% of its Canadian population over the last 40 years albeit at a slower rate since the 1980s. The reasons for these declines are likely driven by the cumulative effects of several threats including:
    • loss of breeding and foraging habitat
    • destruction of nests during aggregate excavation
    • collision with vehicles
    • widespread pesticide use that has reduced the populations of insects they eat
    • impacts of climate change

Conservation Actions:

Range Map

View a range map here.