Riparia Riparia – Bank Swallow

Riparia Riparia - Bank Swallow found in the United States

The sand martin (Riparia riparia) is a migratory passerine bird in the swallow family. In the summer, it covers almost all of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Palearctic to the Pacific. North American Holarctic species. South America and the Indian Subcontinent winter it.

Quick Overview: Riparia Riparia – Bank Swallow
Body size: Around 4.75 in (12 cm) and a weight of 14 g (.5 oz)
Main colors: Gray-Brown, Brown, White, Pink
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Bank Swallow Description

Bank swallows have a grayish-brown head, back, wings, and tail. The wing and tail flying feathers are darker, and a brown stripe runs across the breast. Skin, belly and undertail coverts are all white. Juveniles have buffy or white upperparts with a pink throat wash. Their tails are notch.

Riparia Riparia - Bank Swallow found in the United States
Riparia Riparia – Bank Swallow. Photo by: Charles Gates


These birds have a length of 4.75 in (12 cm) and a weight of 14 g (.5 oz). Their wings could range from 10-11 in (25-28 cm).


Bank swallows consume mostly insects caught in flight. Insect prey are mostly flying insects, although they also eat terrestrial, aquatic, and larval insects. Meadows, agricultural fields, and wetlands are ideal habitats for foraging. They sometimes forage above trees. It also drinks from the water surface using its lower mandible.


They are named after the bank swallow’s preferred nesting environment (Riparia riparia). River, stream and coastal areas have small to large colonies of these birds. They prefer eroding river and stream banks. They use sandy cliffs or bluffs. Man-made habitats including gravel pits, quarries, and road cuttings are now utilised. Most populations are found in lowland river basins and coastal locations. Wetlands, lakes, meadows, agricultural regions, and open forests are important foraging environments.


Bank swallows live and breed in colonies. Despite increased parasite exposure and competition for food, nesting supplies, and mates, bigger colonies of bank swallows are more adept in detecting and defending against diurnal bird predators. Bank swallows may preen and roost together. They’ll sunbathe in bunches. They are quite gregarious and often roost in groups. Bank swallows may forage together and swarm predators together.

Riparia Riparia Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Genus: Riparia
  • Species: Riparia riparia

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in United States is during summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Bank Swallow in the USA

Breeds from Alaska south through California, Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina. Winters in the tropics and on the southeastern coast of Europe.

The Bank Swallow can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Riparia Riparia – Bank Swallow

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