Four Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Bank Swallow

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1Just a couple weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamped envelope featuring the bank swallow. When summer is in full swing, bank swallows can be seen darting and gliding through the air, doing what they do best: hunting insects on the wing. Here are four things you may not know about this interesting little bird:

  • The bank swallow can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • It digs nesting burrows in riverbanks, gravel pits, and even highway cuts. Both males and females help dig the tunnel, first pecking out a shallow hole with their beaks, then using their feet to kick out the dirt. A sandbank riddled with holes, especially one near a river or lake, is likely to be the home of a colony of bank swallows. In fact, in Europe, it’s known as the sand martin.
  • At about 5 inches long, it’s the smallest swallow in North America. According to the National Audobon Society, on average it has a 13-inch wingspan. That’s pretty big for such a small bird!
  • Every year, the little bird migrates a long way. According to the National Audobon Society, “the Bank Swallow migrates long distances with flocks of other swallows during the day, moving from South America up the isthmus of Central America. Migration ranges from March to late May. Fall migration begins as soon as breeding ends and peaks early in the season.”

Would you like to learn more about the bank swallow? Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site. Also, the National Audobon Society is an excellent resource.

The Bank Swallow Stamped Envelope is currently available in our online store.