Do Swallow Bird Sightings Have Special Meaning?

Updated: Jun. 20, 2022

Swallows are lovely birds — but you might not know they've been significant and admired all the way back through ancient times.

What Does It Mean When You See a Swallow?

swallow bird meaningCourtesy Sonja Mauk
Swallow sightings are meaningful to some

There’s no doubt that swallows are gorgeous birds. From the tree swallow’s iridescent turquoise plumage to the barn swallow’s handsomely contrasting rust and blue, seeing a member of the swallow family always invites admiration. But do swallow sightings have a deeper significance? Here’s what you need to know about the swallow bird meaning.

“This tree swallow (above), and its companion, took up residence in my backyard. I would watch them day and night. It was amazing seeing these birds,” says Birds & Blooms reader Sonja Mauk.

Learn 8 types of swallow birds you should know.

Swallows in Ancient Greece

Significance and symbolism for swallows dates back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, swallows were associated with Aphrodite. In addition, they were bearers of good luck. The ancient Greeks allegedly believed gods could take new form as swallows, and harming one of those birds could bring bad fortune.

Did you know—tree swallows use bluebird houses!

Swallow Tattoos for Sailors at Sea

Swallows also have significance for travelers on the sea. Surprisingly, these birds became something of a status symbol for sailors, and a sign of good luck. According to tradition, a sailor with more than 5,000 miles on the waves earned the right to have a swallow tattooed on them. At 10,000 miles, they’d be eligible to add another swallow bird.

Cliff swallow vs barn swallow: spot the differences.

Swallow Bird Migration Meaning

In modern times, swallows are typically associated with spring and summer — especially in China. The swallow’s migration and re-appearance often coincides with winter’s end. The birds usher in a brighter, more colorful season. For that reason, these birds are symbols of good luck or positive change.

Look for a violet-green swallow in the west.

Birders’ Encounters With Swallows

swallow meaningCourtesy Daniel Grundmann
Mother barn swallow returning to the nest

“Barn swallows returned to their nest above our front door after raising four hatchlings the previous summer. The three young barn swallows in the picture are the second clutch our feathered friends, affectionately referred to as Beatrice and Banks, produced this summer. Watching Mom and Dad take care of their young became a large part of my wife’s and my pandemic activities and inspired us to take up birdwatching. This image was taken during one of many hours-long sessions sitting under a patio umbrella in our driveway. These birds have become our welcome housemates, and we look forward to seeing them next year,” Birds & Blooms reader Daniel Grundmann says.

Learn about swallows nest types and nesting habits.

253937403 1 Pattie Turner Bnb Bypc2020, bird swallow meaningCourtesy Pattie Turner
Tree swallow

“I moved to a house close to the Blue Ridge Parkway a few years ago. I had a couple of birdhouses that my dad made for me that I hung up, but I never saw birds around them. One spring, I noticed this beautiful blue tree swallow made a nest in one of them. My dad had passed away a couple of years ago. He crafted lots of birdhouses, and he loved to watch the birds. Seeing this bird and having this picture makes me remember my dad. I am thankful he passed his love of birdwatching to me,” Birds & Blooms reader Pattie Turner says.

Baby swallows are too cute! Check out these ultra-adorable photos of baby swallows.