Birds That Look Like Swallows [The Little Flying Doppelganger]

Have you ever spotted birds that look like a swallow but don’t quite fit the bill? Interestingly there are other birds that share the swallow’s sleek and graceful appearance.

Below we’ll explore 7 swallow-lookalikes, discussing their characteristics, geographical range, behavior, and fun facts. So, read on to discover the swallow’s doppelgangers!

Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica)

Chimney Swifts

The Chimney Swifts resemble swallows in their flight pattern and appearance. They have distinctive plumage and the unique behavior of nesting in chimneys to avoid getting cold

You can find them in North and South America. They’re also migratory, with their breeding grounds located in the northern parts of their range.

They’re generally small, dark-gray brown birds with long, narrow wings, a forked tail, and a slightly iridescent pale throat. Their wings produce a distinctive sound when they fly.

They primarily live in densely populated areas, including urban areas, where they nest in chimneys, hollow trees, and abandoned buildings. 

Chimney Swifts feed on insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and beetles, which they catch while in flight. 

Interesting Facts

  • Chimney Swifts can drink while in flight by flying in the rain, catching raindrops, flying low over water bodies, and skimming a mouthful, a rare ability among birds.
  • They have a unique mating ritual where males and females glide in synchronized flights around their nesting sites, emitting high-pitched calls.
  • Chimney Swifts have synchronized roosting behavior, with large flocks entering and exiting chimneys or other structures in a swirling, choreographed pattern.

Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)

Vaux’s Swifts closely resemble swallows in appearance and behavior. They’re native to North America and spend their winters in Central and South America.

They have iridescent light-brownish feathers and long, narrow wings, which allow them to fly with incredible agility and speed. 

In terms of size, Vaux’s Swifts are similar to Chimney Swifts, with an average length of around 4.8 inches and a wingspan of approximately 11 inches. 

They prefer to live in open habitats such as forests, canyons, and grasslands, where they can find suitable nesting sites in tree hollows, crevices, or caves. 

They primarily feed on flying insects like mosquitoes, flies, and beetles, which they catch in flight using their specialized bill and strong flying skills.

Interesting Facts

  • Vaux’s Swifts can fly 30 to 80 miles per hour with delightful frequent turning. Their flight is usually erratic since their wings don’t work in unison.
  • Unlike most birds, Vaux’s Swifts can’t perch, so they cling to vertical surfaces, such as tree trunks or the insides of chimneys, for rest and nesting.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebirds have a rich blue head, wings, back, rusty red breast, and a white belly

While Eastern Bluebirds resemble Barn Swallows, their rounded heads and thicker beaks set them apart. 

They’re native to North America, particularly throughout the eastern United States. In winter, they migrate south to warmer areas, including Florida and Mexico.

They’re medium-sized birds, typically around 6 to 7 inches long, with a wingspan of about 9 to 12 inches.

They prefer open grassy areas, including fields, meadows, golf courses, woodland edges, and orchards. 

Eastern Bluebirds are primarily insectivores, with a diet that includes insects like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. They also eat small fruits like blueberries and elderberries.

Interesting Facts

  • They’re among the few species that actively seek and consume the invasive insect pest known as the Emerald Ash Borer.
  • Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters, often using abandoned woodpecker holes or birdhouses for their nests.
  • They’re highly territorial and fiercely defend their nesting area from other birds.

Common Swift (Apus apus)

Common Swift

The Common Swifts are found in most parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. They have dark brown plumage, slender bodies, and long, narrow wings that make them excellent fliers.

These birds measure 3.5 to 9 inches long and have a large wingspan of around 14 to 15.7 inches.

They nest in the eaves of buildings or on cliffs. They build their nests using grass, feathers, and other materials they collect while flying. 

Their diet includes flying insects like butterflies, flies, moths, and beetles, which they catch while flying.

Interesting Facts

  • Despite their small size, Common Swifts can fly at incredible speeds of up to 69 miles per hour. 
  • They’re famous for their acrobatic flight style and ability to fly continuously without touching the ground for prolonged durations.
  • These birds are highly migratory and travel long distances between their breeding and wintering grounds, often covering thousands of miles.
  • They’re one of the few bird species that can fly at night and roost while flying, allowing them to sleep in brief bursts while in flight.

Plain Swift (Apus unicolor)

The Plain Swifts resemble the Swallow in size and flight patterns. They originate from southern Asia and are known for their sleek, slender body with blackish-brown plumage. 

The bird measures around 5.5 to  5.9 inches in length and has a wingspan of approximately 10.6 to 15.4 inches.

You can spot Plain Swifts in open fields, forested regions, and urban areas, where they build their nests in buildings, bridges, and other man-made structures. 

Plain Swift are insectivores feeding on insects like beetles, ants, and termites. You can often observe them in open fields feeding on flying insects.

Interesting Facts

  • Plain Swifts use their impressive aerial acrobatics and speed to catch prey in mid-flight.
  • They can fly at extremely high altitudes, reaching up to 10,000 meters above sea level.
  • Plain Swifts often gather in large flocks during migration, and you can often observe them traveling long distances across open water.
  • They have very short legs, which are not well-suited for perching or walking on the ground.

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

Pallid Swift

The Pallid Swifts are commonly found in high-altitude regions such as the mountains of Europe and Asia.

They have pale, brownish-gray plumage with a grayish belly and dark wings that blend into their rocky habitats. They nest in crevices and holes in cliff faces or tall buildings.

Pallid Swifts are around 6.3 to 6.7 inches long with a wingspan of up to 18 inches and can weigh up to 2 ounces.

Their diet primarily consists of insects and spiders, which they catch while flying. They also drink while in flight by skimming the surface of lakes and rivers. 

Interesting Facts

  • These birds have impressive flight displays during mating season, soaring high in the sky while emitting loud calls.
  • They’re monogamous birds and typically mate for life. 
  • They can produce one or two broods annually with an average clutch size of two to three eggs. 

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