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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Bank Swallow -- Riparia riparia

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and central Yukon to central Quebec and southern Labrador, south to southern California, western Nevada, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, northern Alabama, eastern Virginia, and casually, northwestern North Carolina and south-central South Carolina. Winters in South America.

STATUS: Locally common; population is declining over parts of its range.

HABITAT: Prefers grasslands and cultivated fields but uses a variety of open habitats, usually near water and suitable nest sites. Nests in riverbanks, borrow pits, gravel pits, road cuts, sand banks and other exposed banks of sand, gravel or clay.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Vertical banks of sand, gravel, or clay in an open habitat, preferably near lakes, ponds, or marshes.

NEST: Excavates a burrow near the top of a vertical bank (or repairs an existing burrow) ranging from 9 inches to 6 feet, but generally about 2 feet, in length. Forms dense colonies, with up to several hundred nests in a bank.

FOOD: Catches primarily flies while flying over water or grasslands, especially pastures.

REFERENCES: Allen 1933, Beal 1918, Beyer 1938, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Peterson 1955, Tate and Tate 1982.

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