Physical Characteristics

Swallows are distinguishable by their long, sleek tails and wings. Their gaping bill and long tails and wings are built for the long-term flight and maneuverability that enables them to catch their major source of food, flying and water-skimming insects.

Most swallows have black, brown, iridescent blue, or iridescent green plumage on top with a lighter tan, dark orange, or white chest. Their long tails may be forked (like the barn swallow) or straight across (like a cliff swallow), and act as an aerial rudder, or guide.

The legs and feet of the swallow are short and built primarily for perching, not walking. The average size of a swallow ranges from 4.75 to 8 inches (12.0 to 20.3 centimeters) in length, and they weigh from 0.4 to 2.1 ounces (10 to 60 grams).

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