Mystery Bird: Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica

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[Mystery bird] Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, photographed at Bob Road, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 4 August 2009 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/500s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

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cave swallow: dark rump and sides on the background bird, absence of a dark patch below rufous throat

By sourpersimmon (not verified) on 21 Sep 2009 #permalink

Barn Swallows Chestnut colored breast, swallow tailed. Gestault,mud gathering.

By judy roth (not verified) on 21 Sep 2009 #permalink

The bird in the foreground is an immature Barn Swallow. Neither Cave or Cliff Swallows have any white markings on the tail, and in their first summer, Barn Swallows are quite light below. Neither Cliff or Cave Swallows have the throat band.

By Carl Buell (not verified) on 21 Sep 2009 #permalink

I agree -- Barn Swallow. I am a little concerned about the tail spots -- I'm not quite sure they're not simply a highlight. Similarly, the throat band might be an effect of the way the feathers are ruffled. Put the two together and they're highly suggestive. I think the final point is visible on the rear bird. The wing linings appear buffy to cinnamon. According to some old, blurry photos, Barn Swallow should be the only one of the three to show this.
I don't believe these birds are gathering mud -- the surface appears dry, and both birds are turned to one side. I'm not sure if they are dust-bathing, or (more likely) anting, where they allow ants to remove parasites from their skins and feathers.

LOL, I wonder where this photo came from...? For comparison, a Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva, and a Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, side by side, also photographed in Texas...


However on the photo above, while the bird in the background appears to indeed be a Barn Swallow, I am troubled by the lack of orange on the undertail coverts on the bird in the foreground (is this Carl's "quite light below"?) because I have noted that while immature Barn Swallows are indeed pale on the belly, so too is the throat paler than as pictured above... although again, it is unclear (perhaps lacking) whether there are tail streamers as in mature adults... as this photo was from Texas taken last month and Barn Swallows are typically the last swallow to migrate South, even as late as early Winter, perhaps this was an immature bird a month prior to this photo and will be "mature" bird right about now... exactly when does "immature" become "mature"?! Is this a tweenie H.r.erythrogaster?

Hi, my first impression was juvenile Barn Swallow with an adult in the background, my experience of Cliff and Cave is limited but these two here appear to have longer wings than Cliff/Cave. Also the undertail coverts appear to be unmarked.
David, In the UK Barns can have 2 or even three broods so during August there can be a mixture of ages together with earlier broods helping to rear the later ones, I don't know if the same applies in the US.

Both my personal (very blurry) photos and the Nat. Geo. guide show juvenile Barn Swallows with pale undertail coverts. Of course, there is that annoying darker throat. On the other hand, Nat.Geo. shows dark spots on the undertail coverts of both Cliff and Cave.