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Bank Swallow

Riparia riparia

COSEWIC Status: Threatened

COSSARO Status: Threatened

Bank Swallow


  • The Bank Swallow is the smallest swallow in the Americas averaging 12 cm long.
  • It is a very slender songbird, with dark brown upper parts 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 and 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.
  • 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

Photo Gallery

Photo by: Tianna Burke

Photo by: Tianna Burke

Bank Swallow

For more information about the Bank Swallow in the Georgian Bay area, contact:

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
SAR Biologist
7 Bay Street
Parry Sound, Ontario
P2A 1S4
Phone: 705-746-4201

Thanks to the official sponsors of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Ontario Field Ornithologists, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) for supplying Atlas data, and to the thousands of volunteer participants who gathered data for the project.

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