Barn Swallow Foraging Aquatic Prey

on 25th February 2014

“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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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