Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Dick Cannings
Photo Copyright Dick Cannings

The violet-green swallow, Tachycineta thalassina, breeds in montane forests west of the Rocky Mountains from southern Alaska southward through western Canada to the Mexican highlands. It winters in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The violet-green swallow is commonly found throughout Utah during the summer. It resides in a variety of habitats, ranging from lowland valleys to mountain peaks, but typically it breeds in mid-elevation aspen forests where it can find an abundance of abandoned woodpecker cavities in which to nest. During spring and fall migrations, large mixed flocks of swallows are often seen around water bodies in lowland areas of the state.

Violet-green swallows feed exclusively on flying insects that are captured in flight. After individuals form pairs, both sexes investigate potential nesting sites, but it is the female that probably makes the final selection. Females also gather the majority of the nesting materials. Pairs nest in abandoned woodpecker cavities in standing dead trees, between rocks in a cliff, or in nest boxes provided by humans. The female incubates her clutch of four to six eggs for about two weeks. Both parents feed the young, but the female brings the majority of food to the nest. The young leave the nest after about twenty-four days, but they are still dependent on their parents for food for some time afterward. The forestry practice of removing standing dead trees reduces the availability of suitable nesting locations for this species.


  • 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.

  • Brown, C. R., A. M. Knott, and E. J. Damrose. 1992. Violet-green Swallow. Birds of North America 14.