South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Stelgidopteryx serripennis

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 11 to 12 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Brown upperparts, grayish brown wash on throat, white belly and undertail.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennisNorthern Rough-winged Swallows are named for the tiny serrations on it's outermost wing feathers.  They are more solitary than most swallows, and don't form the large nesting colonies seen with Bank Swallows and other swallow species.  They nest in holes in dirt banks like Bank Swallows, however.

Habitat: Near lakes, streams, river banks, bluffs.  Can be found at nearly any type of vertical dirt bank, but most typically near water.

Diet: Feeds almost exclusively on flying insects.

Behavior: Forages primarily while in flight, capturing flying insects in mid-air, usually relatively low to the ground.

Nesting: Late May and June.  The nest of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow is in a cavity, traditionally a cavity in a tree or a recessed crevice in a rocky area, but they have now also started to utilize nest boxes.  The nest in the cavity is a cup built of grasses, sedges, and twigs, lined with feathers.  The female usually lays 4 to 6 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  Once the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge after about 24 days, but usually continue to be fed by the parents for a few weeks after fledging.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Northern Rough-winged Swallow Song, also Northern Rough-winged Swallow Call.

Migration: Neotropical migrant, wintering from the extreme southern U.S. and further south.

Similar Species: Bank Swallow, Tree Swallow

Conservation Status: Northern Rough-winged Swallows are probably more numerous and widespread now than they were pre-settlement.  They've learned to adapt well to a human presence, and will now use bridges and road cuts for nesting in addition to natural sites.  The IUCN lists the Northern Rough-winged Swallow as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Rough-winged Swallow

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Northern Rough-winged Swallow"

3) eNature.com: Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Photo Information: July 5th, 2010 - Badlands National Park in South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Northern Rough-winged Swallow photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeding resident in the eastern part of the state, uncommon in the west.