Barn swallows are a common sight in many parts of the world, particularly on farms and in open fields. Have you ever wondered why they often hang out around fields that are actively being tilled or harvested? Chances are, they’re looking for their next meal. So, what do barn swallows eat? Do they drink water? Do baby barn swallows have a similar diet as the adults? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
What is a Barn Swallow’s Diet?
Barn swallows are beautiful migratory birds that can be found throughout the world at different seasons of the year. What kinds of food sustain their long journeys?
Barn swallows are primarily insectivores. This means, as you might imagine, that they mostly eat insects.
All different kinds of flies seem to be their favorite food, but they eat many other types of insects as well. Some of the insects that regularly make up their diet include:
Barn swallows will eat other invertebrates as well, such as spiders and worms. However, they seem to prefer flying or fast-moving insects.
The reason for this may be because they tend to do their hunting while in flight themselves. They will catch insects in midair as they fly past or swoop down to scoop up insects they spot on the ground.
Barn swallows can eat up to their own weight in insects–that’s up to 1,000 insects every day!
They are known for flying close to human activities such as tilling and gardening, where insects are often stirred up. This provides them with an abundant source of insects and invertebrates, making for an easy meal.
When insects are in short supply during the colder months, barn swallows will eat other foods as well. They seem to prefer berries and fruits that they find in the wild or that people put out for them.
Do Barn Swallows Eat Mosquitoes?
So, we’ve established that barn swallows love to eat insects, but what about mosquitoes?
As it turns out, mosquitoes make up a significant part of a barn swallow’s diet. They are generally small and abundant, so a single barn swallow may eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a day.
As with other insects, barn swallows will snag mosquitoes out of the air as they fly by. They enjoy all types of flying insects, and mosquitoes appear to be one of their favorite foods.
Do Barn Swallows Drink Water?
All birds need water to survive. While some get most of their water from the foods they eat, others need to drink water from lakes and streams from time to time to keep from becoming dehydrated.
Barn swallows are part of this latter group. They get some of their water from the insects they eat, but they also need to supplement by drinking water.
Barn swallows drink in similar fashion to the way they eat. They will fly low over a water source, skimming across its surface and dipping their beak under the water, gulping up a mouthful as they fly.
They also bathe in a similar manner. They will dip their bellies in the water as they fly past it, cooling their bodies on a warm day or quickly washing their feathers.
Check out this video of a barn swallow taking a drink from a cattle trough:
What to Feed a Baby Barn Swallow?
Baby barn swallows eat the same foods as adults do. In the wild, parents take turns feeding their young a portion of the food they hunt for themselves.
But what should you do if you find a baby barn swallow that has fallen out of the nest? What should you feed it?
The best thing you can do for the baby is try to locate the nest that it fell out of. Barn swallows often build their nests in barns and other manmade structures, and they rarely fall very far from the nest.
If at all possible, place the baby back in the nest. You may have heard the myth that birds will abandon their babies if they smell human scents on them, but this is not true.
If you cannot locate the nest or you know that the baby has been orphaned, it is best to go ahead and take care of it yourself.
If the baby is very young, feed it small insects such as mosquitoes or gnats. If you don’t have ready access to these insects, mix minced meat with commercial insectivore food and add in a bit of a veterinarian-recommended vitamin supplement; offer this food in small bits on the tip of a clean paintbrush.
Baby birds need to be fed at least 8 times per day–about once every two hours. At each feeding, continue offering food until the baby stops the gaping response.
As the baby grows, you can add mealworms and larger insects to its diet. It’s best to offer these foods using a pair of tweezers.
Again, continue feeding until the baby stops gaping.
Baby swallows will eventually fledge, but they may return for food several times a day until they adjust to feeding on their own. Continue to provide mealworms or other insects until the young barn swallows stop returning.
Check out this video of someone feeding a batch of baby barn swallows:
Barn swallows are insectivores that eat a wide variety of insects and invertebrates. They seem to prefer flying insects and will catch their meal in midair. They can eat up to their own weight in insects every day.