How to Feed a Swallow

Feeding a swallow is a complex task, as these animals are eminently insectivorous. Here we tell you how to do it.
How to Feed a Swallow

Written by Santiago Cardona

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Swallows are beautiful open-country birds, with an admirable ability to create their homes in human-made structures. In the same way, they build their nests with little clay balls that they collect from the barns, giving them the shape of a cup. It should be noted that, in these nests, swallows reproduce and take care of their young. So, having said all that, would you know how to feed a swallow?

Swallows have the characteristic of being very active and resistant birds; they usually fly in groups and go hunting in pairs. In addition, the way they eat has made living with people a normal and everyday circumstance.

How to identify a swallow

To identify a swallow from other birds, look at the following characteristics:

  • It’s a small bird. Still, adult males are 14.6 to 20 centimeters (5.7 – 7.8 inches) in length and weigh about 16 to 22 grams (just under an ounce).
  • These birds generally have a metallic blue upper part and the forehead; the chin and throat are reddish in color.
  • The feathers along the end of the upper part of the tail have lines of white spots along them.
  • The females look similar to the males, but differ in that the tail feathers are shorter. In addition, in both of them, the abdomen and the chest are pale.
  • Young swallows are brown and their tail feathers aren’t as long as an adult’s.
A sitting swallow.

Where do swallows live

We’ll soon tell you how to feed a swallow, but we first need to understand about its natural habitat. These birds are constantly changing places to live, as they adapt easily to different environments. In addition, they can fly freely through the fields and also roam urban areas, to build their nests on the roofs of houses.

In general, swallows will stay longer in places where there’s a lot of vegetation, forest, and water sources. In this way, they guarantee their survival, as there’s always a good source of food there. In the same way, they’ll obtain food from humans, as in some countries the coexistence between swallows and people is common.

How a swallow feeds

Swallows have a peculiar way of feeding: they digest their food while they’re in flight, without having to stop to do so. The main diet of the young are flying insects, which are hunted by the parents when they’re close to the ground, taking them with their beaks.

After feeding the insects they’ve hunted to their young, swallows discard the leftovers, which are usually the legs and wings of those insects. The moment they eat your food, their metabolism processes the food quickly. Therefore, swallows need to eat several times a day.

How to feed swallows

Now that you know what these birds are like and how they eat, it’s time to learn how to feed a swallow. Trying to turn a wild animal into a pet is strongly discouraged, but sometimes you’ll have to take care of an orphaned baby bird or a damaged adult. Keep the following tips in mind:

  1. The fact that swallows have insects in their diet doesn’t mean that they can be given these animals dead; swallows always hunt them alive. In other words, it’s always better to obtain fresh prey, as long as it doesn’t pose a threat to the animal.
  2. Once the swallow is under the protection of the temporary guardian, its live food must be purchased in specialized stores for birds or exotic animals. Mealworms, crickets and honey worms are suitable options.
  3. Another option is to buy paste for insectivorous birds. However, it’s always far better to use live insects and more natural nutritional sources.
  4. Small swallows can be given certain supplements, such as crushed boiled eggs. This is an accessory energy source that can help the chicken grow.
  5. Food can be chopped and made into a porridge with water. In addition, a vitamin complex can be given to the newborn, not without first consulting the mixture with the veterinarian.

The swallow’s way of life

Swallows don’t tend to stray very far from their nests when they go out to look for food. In addition, they really like reed beds. They are an important source of food and the abundance of prey helps them to replenish their fat reserves. In the same way, eating well helps them to survive on their migratory flights.

When swallows migrate north for reproduction and distribution, they gain 2 to 4 grams in weight. This way of life leads us to question whether it’s a good idea to domesticate these birds or whether it’s better for them to develop their existence in their natural habitat.

Raising a swallow without permits or without being an endorsed entity is not only unethical, but a criminal act in many regions. Therefore, it’s always best to observe these birds from a distance.

Swallows are animals that migrate.

Beware of stray birds

In many cases, human beings take young birds home with the intention of caring for them. This tends to do more harm than good, as most of them are learning to fly and aren’t really neglected.

The recommendation will always be to place the animal in a hedge or similar formation – a safe and low-rise place – and observe if the parents come to it. If this hasn’t happened after around 2 hours, it’s best to call a public body that looks after native fauna. In other words, taking a swallow chick home will always be the last option.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.