Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Jim Bailey, Utah Nature Photography
Photo Copyright Jim Bailey

The breeding range of the northern rough-winged swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis, includes most of the continental United States, as well as parts of southern Canada. In Utah, the species resides in the lower valleys throughout the state during the summer months; nesting colonies are often found in earthen banks along stream sides. During spring and fall migrations, large flocks of northern rough-winged swallows fly through the state. Northern rough-winged swallows winter along the Gulf Coast, in southern California, in southern Mexico, and in Central America.

Northern rough-winged swallows pursue flying insects at low altitudes, typically just above fields, gullies, and water surfaces. They prefer to nest in open country, especially near water. Males participate in a courtship flight in which they pursue females. The pair selects a burrow located in a bank of clay or sand; they will use burrows previously excavated by kingfishers, bank swallows, or rodents. In addition, some pairs nest in drainpipes, culverts, boats, and sewer pipes. The female constructs a nest in the burrow using twigs, straw, roots, leaves, and other fine material. Pairs are normally solitary, but occasionally small loosely-knit colonies will form. The female incubates her clutch of five to six eggs for sixteen days. Parents take turns warming with the naked hatchlings, and parents share responsibility for feeding the nestlings. The chicks leave the nest after about three weeks, but both parents continue to feed the fledglings for up to several additional weeks.


  • 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.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • DeJong, M. J. 1996. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis). Birds of North America 234.