Swallows are found throughout North America, including Pennsylvania. With its many mountains, rolling hills and wooded areas, the Keystone state makes a perfect breeding ground for five different species of swallows. Swallows visit Pennsylvania’s tall trees and mountainsides in the summer for breeding, before returning to their homes in the south for the winter.
Barn swallows earn their name from their nesting habits. They often find the best place to build their mud nests is under the eaves of man-made structures, such as barns and sheds. Barn swallows are identifiable by their coloring, a mix of cobalt blue and tawny. Unlike other swallows, a barn swallow has broad shoulders. His tail extends beyond his wingtips and ends in a fork. In summer, these birds make their nests in Pennsylvanian parks, meadows, ponds and fields. After breeding, they return to their homes in South America.
Throughout summer, tree swallows can be spotted making their nests in Pennsylvanian fields and wetlands. They build their nests in tree cavities, feeding on flies and other flying insects, until the day their babies are grown and they’re ready to return to their homes in the south. Male tree swallows can be identified by their bluish coloring and short notched tails. Females have mostly brown, plain feathers. Male birds often feature brighter plumage than females, in order to draw predators away from the nest.
If you find yourself along the Delaware Water Gap, a 70,000 acre national park located near the Poconos, you may catch sight of the bank swallow. The bank swallow visits Pennsylvania’s streamside banks, when it’s ready to breed in the summertime. A mix of brown and white, the bank swallow is most easily identified by the dark band that extends across and down the middle of his chest. Most often, these birds can be found in large clusters because they nest in colonies.
Northern Rough-winged Swallows
Perhaps the plainest of all Pennsylvania’s swallows, the northern rough-winged swallow, features simple brown plumage, a white underbelly and a short black beak. They make their habitats along riverbanks. Perhaps their common habitat is why the original discoverer of northern rough-winged swallows, John James Audubon, originally thought he’d collected bank swallows when he’d actually discovered the northern rough-winged.
Pennsylvanian mountains make the perfect habitat for breeding cliff swallows, a bird species that prefers to build their mud nests on vertical cliff faces. Cliff swallows are easily identified by their red faces and dark blue backs. They have broad wings, with squared tails and can be seen flying in aerial patterns while attempting to catch insects for their diet.