Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
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General Comments The Barn Swallow, like most swallows, breeds from coast to coast, well into Canada; like most of them, they completely leave the states for places as far south as Argentina. It nests in all 100 counties in North Carolina, but it essentially did not breed in the state until the 1950's. In fact, the finding of nests at Blowing Rock (Watauga) and Roaring Gap (Alleghany) in 1952 were worthy of "Briefs for the Files" in The Chat! It has increased as a breeder since then, though now that all of the southeastern counties are "occupied", it is no longer easy to note population increases. At any rate, it is, by far, our most widespread and common breeding swallow. They nest on horizontal surfaces, usually man-made, such as beneath bridges (both over water and over highways) and inside vacant buildings. Most territories tend to have some open water; however, many nest under highway overpasses, seemingly well away from water.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5B
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Summer resident, with migratory movements. Common breeder over the entire province (except near extensive forests), even on the Outer Banks. Mainly mid- or late Mar to late Oct, very rarely to early Jan (a handful of CBC records) along and near the coast. A few apparently overwintered at a quarry at New Bern in 1986-87. Three at Sunset Beach (Brunswick) on 13 Jan 2022 were also notable for midwinter. Can be very common to briefly abundant in migration. Peak counts: 750, Four Oaks (Johnston), 29 Aug 1981.
Piedmont Summer resident. Common breeder throughout the region, and at times very common (at least near reservoirs) in migration. Mainly late Mar to late Sep or early Oct. Peak counts:
Mountains Summer resident. Common breeder at low and middle elevations, to about 4,000 feet; uncommon to perhaps 5,000 feet. Mainly late Mar to early Oct. Peak counts: 500+, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 13 and 17 Jul 2014.
Finding Tips None needed.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-26], LeGrand[2022-04-27], LeGrand[2016-09-29]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.