Did you know ?


Barn swallows hunt and drink while flying, this is why they prefer open-spaces.

They are the best in acrobatics! Flight speed: 60 km/h on average, and until 100km/h while they chase !

At the Bellefontaine castle in Gironde, since many years, the male’s warbling informs the coming back of barn swallows. They quickly go back into breeding territories.

Listen his warbling…

What barn swallows eat ?

Barn swallows only eat insects they caught while flying. This is a reason why their sight is so developed!

This diet depends on the place they live in, on seasons and years. During cold and humid periods, unfavourable periods for insects, swallows prefer to hunt on top of water, where insects are more numerous. When it hunts to feed its brood, the swallows store several preys in its mouth in order to don’t multiply flights. A single beakful of food can have around twenty insects !

However, the parents can go back and forth until 400 times each day.

Where barn swallows live ?

Barn swallows are widely spread on North America and Eurasia. Their living area are the temperate areas of both continents, hanging over boreal zones in the north and temperate climate Mediterranean. In Africa, they only reproduce in the extreme north, in Maghreb, north of Libya and in the Nile valley.

Wintering areas are separated from the reproductive ones. North-American birds use to spend winter in South America. European birds go to Africa and the Asian northern ones spend winter in the Indian subcontinent or in South-East Asia. Regarding the European birds, we only noticed a little wintering in south of Spain.

Why barn swallows migrate ?

Swallows migrate to Africa during winter. A first reason is the season which is too cold for them in Europe, but this reason isn’t a sufficient explanation as there are passerine birds resisting to cold.

The determining reason comes from their specialized eating habits. Barn swallows only eat flying insects, that totally disappear in winter meanwhile there are plenty in Africa.

Therefore, why don’t they reproduce in Africa ?

One of the hypothesis is that there is hard competition in Africa during nesting periods. Indeed, 37 indigenous swallows species exist in Africa, without mentioning all the other insectivorous species.

An endangered species...

Scientists noticed a loss in the populations since the end of the 20th century, especially in Western Europe were the causes are numerous. Barn swallows often depend on buildings, what makes them vulnerable. For instance, they have been deprived from nest spots as cowsheds disappear. The deep changes in agriculture, in relation with its modernization and the intensive use of pests have an impact on their resources. There are many proofs of the insect’s rarefaction and the loss of biodiversity in general, which affect the species.

This castle undergoes renovations, and unfortunately for the swallows, they plan to transform the manor. As it has been abandoned for a long time, it was a paradise for their nests.

Adult swallows always try to strengthen an existing nests whereas constructing a new one. This explains the real competition at the beginning of the season between birds in order to get the best nest. They can be squatted by another species, such as sparrows, black redstarts, white wagtails or Eurasian wrens; and all these species live at Bellefontaine ! For this time, we must also consider human as a competitor for this breeding territory.

In order to find a solution, HISA works with the owners of the castle, to build two housing for new barn swallow’s families!

They should be built before the swallows come back, and some experts gave us advices, in order to conceive the best housing adapted to swallows needs. We have to preserve barn swallows, as they are an endangered species and their previous nests are in jeopardy. So far, we pondered for a while to build a housing that would correspond to the swallows’ needs, and welcome as many nests as there was previously. We would also like the tower to be esthetically pleasing, and well-integrated into this charming site !


There is no barn swallows housing for the moment in France. Its inauguration will be a great event, and HISA is proud of its conception !