Common swallow (Hirundo rustica).—Stephen Dalton—Natural History Photographic Agency/EB Inc.

Any of several species (family Hirundinidae) of songbirds found nearly worldwide. Swallows are 4–9 in. (10–23 cm) long, with long pointed, narrow wings, a short bill, small, weak feet, and sometimes a forked tail. The dark upper plumage may have a metallic blue or green sheen. Swallows capture insects on the wing. They nest in tree holes, burrow into sandbank, or plaster mud nests to walls. Some species (e.g., the common swallow, Hirundo rustica) are long-distance migrants; all have a strong homing instinct. The swallows of California's San Juan Capistrano Mission are cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota). See also martin.

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