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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Tree Swallow -- Tachycineta bicolor


RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and central Yukon to northern Quebec and central Labrador south along the Pacific Coast to southern California and south-central New Mexico, generally sporadic or irregular as a breeder east of the Rocky Mountain States and south of the upper Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, or along the Atlantic Coast south of Massachusetts. Winters from southern California, southwestern Arizona, Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Coast from New York south to Central America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Prefers open woodlands near ponds, small lakes, or marshes. Occurs around farmlands, river bottomlands, beaver ponds, wooded swamps, and marshes where dead standing trees are in or near water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Cavities for nesting; suitable cavity trees must have a minimum dbh of 10 inches, and open feeding areas such as meadows, marshes, or open water.

NEST: Prefers to nest in natural cavities and abandoned woodpecker holes, but if nesting holes are scarce, will accept nest boxes placed in open fields or use crevices in buildings. Uses cavities in the trunk or limb of live or dead trees, especially if the cavity is 3 to 15 feet above water. Usually nests singly but is loosely colonial if there are abundant suitable cavities and a good food supply.

FOOD: Feeds mostly on flying insects over open areas. In early spring and in cold weather when insects are scarce, subsists on wild berries and seeds, especially bayberries.

REFERENCES: Beal 1918, Chapman 1955, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Scott et al. 1977, Terres 1980, Thomas et al. 1979.


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