Creative Commons photo by Ferran Pestaña
Enigmatic and familiar, the Barn Swallow can be found all over the world—breeding across the Northern Hemisphere and wintering in the Southern Hemisphere as far away as Argentina and Australia. These bright blue birds are known for their abundance in open spaces and for their close association with humans. The birds have always been linked to people, even adapting former nesting grounds in caves and cliff faces for manmade structures as industrialization and urban sprawl changed their habitats. The swallow also feeds on bugs and insects, working as pest control for humans.
In recent years, though, the Barn Swallow has taken a hit. Land reclamation and the overuse of harmful pesticides have led to population decline. As agriculture has intensified the birds have lost important habitats, also reducing insect prey.
The Barn Swallow is an international symbol of bird migration and is a strong indicator of threatened habitats affecting similar bird species. As human interference and land reclamation begin to wreak havoc on the swallow population, similar birds may already be suffering the consequences.