Swallow Week 2024: Glossary

Swallow Family Glossary: Terms to Help Understanding Swallows

As our week-long celebration of Swallows continues here on the Birdorable blog, we're sharing a glossary of terms related to the family Hirundinidae. Understanding these related terms will help with your understanding of the unique birds in this fascinating cosmopolitan family of insect-feeding birds.

Birdorable Chimney Siwft aerial insectivore

Chimney Swifts are aerial insectivores, catching insects in flight.

Aerial Insectivores

Birds that catch insects in flight, a category that prominently includes swallows.

Apus

A genus of birds in the swift family, often confused with swallows due to their similar appearance and flight patterns. Swifts and swallows are, however, different in their wing structure and nesting habits.

Brood Parasitism

A behavior where a bird lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, relying on them to raise their young. Brood parasitism does not only involve mixed species; in their communal nesting colonies, Cliff Swallows have been observed laying eggs in other Cliff Swallow nests.

Diurnal Migration

The pattern of migrating during the day. Swallows, being diurnal, migrate during the day, utilizing the daylight hours for feeding on insects as they move.

Gape

The wide opening of a bird's mouth, often significantly large in aerial insectivores to facilitate easy feeding.

Hawking

A feeding strategy where birds catch insects in mid-air. Swallows are expert hawkers, gracefully capturing prey during flight with precision.

Hirundinidae

The scientific family name for swallows, from Latin, which encompasses various species of swallows, saw-wings, and martins.

Rictal Bristles

Stiff feather structures around the base of the beak, thought to aid in sensing and catching insects mid-flight. Rictal bristles are present in several aerial insectivorous species, including the swallows, saw-wings, and martins. Rictal bristles are also notable in nighthawks, swifts, and flycatchers -- all specialist aerial insectivores.

Barn Swallow with rictal bristles

Rictal bristles are stiff feathers around the base of the beak to aid in sensing and catching insects mid-flight.

Roost

A place where birds gather to rest or sleep. Swallows can form large roosts during migration periods. Unlike many birds that might roost solitarily or in small family groups, swallows gather in large numbers at roosting sites. 

Trans-Saharan Migrants

Refers to birds, including some swallows, that migrate across the Sahara Desert to reach their breeding or wintering grounds.

Zugunruhe

A German term used in ornithology to describe the increased restlessness in migratory birds, including swallows, as the migration season approaches.

Comments

Woodpiecer on March 22, 2024 at 7:28 PM wrote:
I saw Swifts and Swallows flying in the sky and I only saw one swallow landing on a branch.
Spurwing Plover on July 12, 2024 at 7:05 PM wrote:
Its the Cliff Swallows that make the arrival in San Juan Capistrano

Leave a comment

Comments with links or HTML will be deleted. Your comment will be published pending approval.
Your email address will not be published
You can unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information on how to unsubscribe, our privacy practices, and how we are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Policy. By clicking submit below, you consent to allow Birdorable to store and process the personal information submitted above to provide you the content requested.

More Gull Frequently Asked Questions

When we had our first Gull Week in 2015, we answered some Frequently Asked Questions About Gulls. Today we're going to answer a few more fun FAQs about the species in this family of seabirds! What do gulls eat? Are...

Every Bird Counts: Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Every year, bird enthusiasts across the globe eagerly anticipate the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a citizen science project that offers everyone, from the casual bird watcher to the avid ornithologist, an opportunity to contribute to the understanding and conservation of bird populations. Scheduled to take place...

2020 Bonanza Bird #7: Bar-headed Goose

Today we’re introducing the Bar-headed Goose to Birdorable! This mid-sized species of Anser goose is easy to recognize due to the namesake black bars found on the back of the head. Bar-headed Geese are known...

Baby Birdorable: Barn Swallow

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr Creative Commons) of the Barn Swallow. Barn Swallows build a nest of mud, often on a man-made structure. Both the male and female...