Swifts and Swallows

Scientific Name
Various in the orders Passeriformes (swallows) and Apodiformes (swifts)
Geographic Range
North, Central, and South America
Primarily flying insects

More Information

Swallows and swifts in the Eastern Hemisphere are small-bodied, long-distance migratory birds. Their long, narrow wings are excellently adapted for quick, aerial maneuvers while foraging for insects. These birds breed in much of North America, then winter in Central and South America. Common Nature Boardwalk species include chimney swifts, cliff swallows, barn swallows, northern rough-winged swallows, and purple martins.

Did You Know?

  • Although they have a similar body shape and size, swallows and swifts belong to two separate bird orders. In fact, swifts are more closely related to hummingbirds, which are also in the Apodiformes order.
  • Like most birds, chimney swifts have three toes in front and one toe (called the hallux) in back. But chimney swifts can swivel the hallux to the front to better cling to the side of vertical structures.
  • Native Americans began the tradition of providing housing for purple martins in the form of hollowed-out gourds. Eastern purple martin populations now use human-made housing almost exclusively. Western populations prefer natural cavities.
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