Barn swallows are passerine birds found throughout much of the world. Have you ever seen these birds flying by and wanted to find out more about them? What do barn swallows do at night? Are they nocturnal or diurnal? Where do they sleep and build their nests? Keep reading as we answer all of these questions!
What You'll Learn Today
Are Barn Swallows Nocturnal or Diurnal?
You probably know that the word “nocturnal” is applied to animals that are active at night and sleep during the day. Diurnal means the opposite–that the animal in question is active during the day and sleeps at night.
So, are barn swallows nocturnal or diurnal? Do they prefer to be more active during the day or at night?
Barn swallows are diurnal birds. They may rest during hot periods of the day, but for the most part, they are awake in the daylight hours and rest at night.
Barn swallows mostly eat flying insects, which they catch “on the wing”, or in midair. They rely on their keen eyesight to see the insects they want to catch.
If they were to hunt at night, they wouldn’t be able to see their prey as well. What’s more, there wouldn’t be as many different types of prey insects to choose from.
What Do Barn Swallows Do at Night?
So, if barn swallows are most active during the day, what do they do at night?
Generally speaking, they find a place to roost as the sun is going down, then they sleep through the night.
Barn swallows are migratory birds, and they sometimes fly after dark when they are on their way to warmer climates. However, they typically don’t fly all night long; they will land as soon as they have found a suitable spot to spend the night.
If they are migrating over water, they may have to fly for hours into the night before reaching land. Though this isn’t common behavior, it does happen sometimes.
However, when they are not migrating, they are rarely active at night. You may see them searching for a place to roost before dusk, and they become active again early the next morning; but they tend to leave the night flying to owls and other nocturnal birds.
If you ever hear birds singing at night, chances are, it’s not barn swallows you are hearing. They produce a warbly chirping sound which they use to communicate with each other; since they usually sleep at night, though, this song is generally heard only during the day.
Where Do Barn Swallows Sleep?
When they are migrating, they tend to sleep together in flocks if they can find a suitable open area for this. They may sleep clustered together in open fields and areas of reeds.
The rest of the year, they usually sleep alone or in small groups. Most often, they roost on a tree or shrub branch; they may also sleep in hollowed-out trees, on rocky outcroppings or cliff faces, or under the eaves of buildings.
In some areas, they even seem to prefer manmade structures. They can be found sleeping under bridges, in stables or barns, and in garages or sheds.
Sometimes, parent barn swallows will sleep in the nest with their brood. This is especially true when they are incubating their eggs.
Do Barn Swallows Nest in Buildings?
As mentioned in the previous section, barn swallows sometimes sleep in buildings. But what about their nests; do they build nests in buildings as well?
According to Audubon, it seems that barn swallows “have adopted humans as neighbors”. Not only do they often make nests in buildings, they seem to prefer doing so.
Most barn swallows build nests in barns and stables; this is a primary reason why they are called barn swallows.
Empty garages and sheds are also popular spots for nests. You may find barn swallow nests under the eaves of your house, on gutters, and in other spots around the outside of your house.
Sometimes they even build nests in wharves and bridge beams, or at the top of vertical posts. They almost always build their nests in manmade structures.
Barn swallow nests are made of mud and plant materials. This mixture hardens onto a variety of structures, creating a strong bond.
This is why they are able to build nests in so many diverse places.
To learn more about barn swallow nest building, check out the following video:
Barn swallows are diurnal creatures. They typically sleep at night. Sometimes, though, when they are migrating, they may fly well into the night until they are able to find a good place to roost.