If we were to travel back through the mists of time, we would find that barn swallow nested in sinkholes, caves, and on rock crevices and cliffs. This significantly limited the breeding range of this swallow. However, while many species of birds have not adapted to the spread of humankind across the globe, that is not the case with the barn swallow.
For example, here in North America the barn swallow has a long association with humans. It is believed that the barn swallow probably attached their mud nests to Native American structures.
The historical record tells us that it did not take the barn swallow long to take advantage of manmade structures built by European colonists in North America. A Swedish naturalist that traveled throughout what is now the Northeastern United States during the mid-1700s wrote that he found barn swallows nesting beneath overhanging rocks, as well as “on the edges of perpendicular rocks.” He went on to say the birds also nested in stables, as well as both inside and on the sides of dwellings.
This habit has greatly expanded since that time. Nowadays practically all barn swallow nests of plastered in manmade structures ranging from beneath bridges, on the sides and rafters of barns, inside culverts, in and on tool sheds, in basements and the sides of our homes. There seems no limit to the number of places where these birds will nest.
Over the centuries, barn swallows have become extremely popular. The barn swallow is the national bird of both Austria and Estonia. In many cultures, when a barn swallow builds a nest on a barn, it is considered good luck. In Estonia, legend has it that anyone that commits the crime of killing barn swallow will go blind.
A Native American legend relates that one day a barn swallow had the audacity to swipe fire from the Gods. The story goes on the say the bird then presented fire to humans. In an effort to thwart this act of thievery, the Gods shot flaming arrows at the bird. One of the arrows struck the bird at the base of its tail. The arrow subsequently burned away the bird’s central tail feathers. As a result, ever since the barn swallow flies about the land displaying two long tail feathers.
Remarkably, the barn swallow has the distinction of being of having the greatest range of any other swallow. Its breeding range stretches across North America, Europe and winters in both Africa and South America.
I think you will agree it appears that the barn swallow’s relationship with us is not going to wane with time.