Barn Swallow Foraging Aquatic Prey

“The Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. Barn Swallows feed mostly on their wings; manoeuvring with ease to catch flying insects in the air. They will also forage at low height; even within just a metre or two above ground (above) as well as over water bodies.

“When flying over water, Barn Swallows are often seen skimming just above the water surface; bills dipped in the water very briefly. Some of us may have wondered whether they are just taking a seep to quench their thirst or catching some tiny aquatic preys off the water surface. Since the action usually occurs at a distance and is too fast for our eyes to see, this mystery remains with no evident answer. Hope the attached images will help shed some light and clear doubts. The images show evidence of two individual Barn Swallows in the process of catching aquatic preys from the water surface.

“Three images of the first Barn Swallow showing it lowering its head just before the catch, twisting its head up sharply immediately after the catch (note the ripples caused by the water droplets falling back onto the water surface), and flying away with the aquatic prey in its bill (above).

“Two images of another Barn Swallow showing it attempting to swallow the prey that it picked up from the water surface and was stuck to its opened bill (above, below).

“Note the difference in plumages between the two individuals with aquatic preys. The wing feathers of the first bird were in moult.”

Kwong Wai Chong
20th February 2014

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