BANK SWALLOW

BANK SWALLOW(Riparia riparia)
DESCRIPTION: The Bank Swallow upper parts are light brown and the under parts white, with a brown band across the breast. The bill is tiny but the mouth opens wide as in other swallows. Both sexes are similar.  It is a small swallow, at 12 cm (4.7 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Riparia-riparia – Bank swallows constantly chatter while flying.
NAME: The bank swallow (called ‘Sand Martin’ in Europe) is thus named because of its nesting sites. The English name ‘Swallow’ was given in reference to the feeding habits of this bird.  The Latin name ‘Riparia’ refers to a river bank.
HABITAT: Vertical banks of rivers, ocean shores, or the steep slopes of human-made gravel or sand pits.
DIET: Bank swallows feed on insects, which they catch on the fly.
NESTING:  These are very social birds that nest in colonies. The colonies vary in size and may reach in the thousands of birds. The male digs a burrow in a sandy bank (or a human-made structure) and the nest is built in a chamber at the end of the burrow. About four white eggs are laid, which are incubated by both parents. The nestlings are fed by both parents as well.
DISTRIBUTION: The overall breeding range of the bank swallow covers much of the northern hemisphere except the Arctic regions. Its wintering range is in South America, parts of Africa and small specific regions of southeast Asia.
ON PEI: The bank swallow breeds on Prince Edward Island and is very common, but absent in the winter.
CONSERVATION: Although the bank swallow is listed in the category ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in Canada it is considered as ‘threatened’ by COSEWIC due to a more than 90% loss of its population in this country over the last few decades.
The suspected reasons vary from loss of habitat, destruction of nests and pesticide use. One factor more specific to the province of Prince Edward Island is erosion of shore banks and cliffs from increasingly severe storms associated with climate change. Here’s an article about extra protection provided to this swallow.
NOTES: Swallows and Martins have a bill with a large base, which is adapted for feeding while flying. Their flying patterns are erratic flutters alternating with short glides.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow
REFERENCES: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bank_Swallow/id
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_martin
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=1233 (COSEWIC Species At Risk)
https://www.ontario.ca/page/bank-swallow (Ontario Species At Risk)
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/bank-swallow
https://wildlifepreservation.ca/maritime-swallows/
https://identify.whatbird.com/obj/233/overview/Bank_Swallow.aspx

Bank swallow along shore cliff - Red Point Provincial Park, PEI - © Marie Smith - June 29, 2017
Bank swallow along shore cliff – Red Point Provincial Park, PEI – © Marie Smith – June 29, 2017
Bank Swallows fighting - North Shore near Darnley Basin, PEI - July 5, 2017
Bank Swallows fighting – North Shore near Darnley Basin, PEI – July 5, 2017 – Chris Rice
Bank Swallow adult with chicks - Cousins Shore, PEI - Aug. 1, 2015
Bank Swallow adult with chicks – Cousins Shore, PEI – Aug. 1, 2015 – Roberta Palmer
Bank swallow - July 26, 2017, Kinkora area, PEI - © Chris Rice
Bank swallow – July 26, 2017, Kinkora area, PEI – Chris Rice
Bank swallow chicks - Cousins Shore, PEI - Aug. 1, 2015
Bank swallow chicks begging for food – Cousins Shore, PEI – Aug. 1, 2015 – Roberta Palmer

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