Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The bank swallow, Riparia riparia, breeds throughout much of Canada, in Alaska, in the central and northern United States, along the Rio Grande Valley, and in south-central Texas. It winters in South America east of the Andes. It is a fairly common summer resident in lowland areas throughout Utah. During spring and fall migrations, it joins large mixed swallow flocks that can be seen throughout the state.

The bank swallow is an aerial feeder that primarily eats flying and jumping insects. It breeds in lowland open country, near running water. Pairs nest in large colony sites along cliffs and bluffs; colonies may be comprised of as many as 1,500 nesting pairs. Bank swallows are extremely territorial and will defend their nests vigorously. The male establishes a nesting site within a colony and begins excavation, at which time he begins attracting females to the burrow. He flies around his burrow in circles singing to the female to advertise the nest. When excavation is complete, he initiates an "invitation flight" in which he overtakes females and entices them into his burrow. Eventually, the male and female engage in pursuit flights and the pair bond is formed shortly thereafter. Both sexes build the nest within the burrow. The female incubates the eggs most of the time, but the male will incubate while she is away from the nest. The clutch of four to six eggs will hatch after about two weeks of incubation. The young are born naked and blind, and both parents feed the young until about five days after the young leave the nest, which occurs about three weeks after hatching. Soon after, the young form large groups of similarly-aged birds. Adults are able to recognize their own young by their unique vocalizations. At the end of the breeding season, the adults join the large groups of young and the flocks migrate to the wintering grounds.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Garrison, B. A. 1999. Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia). Birds of North America 414.