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Definition of SWALLOW
: any of numerous small widely distributed oscine birds (family Hirundinidae, the swallow family) that have a short bill, long pointed wings, and often a deeply forked tail and that feed on insects caught on the wing
: any of several birds that superficially resemble swallows
Illustration of SWALLOW
Origin of SWALLOW
Middle English swalowe, from Old English swealwe; akin to Old High German swalawa swallow
Common swallow (Hirundo rustica).—Stephen DaltonNatural 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 alsomartin.