Eight polymorphic microsatellite markers from the swallow were isolated and characterized. Extraordinary variability was revealed at the HrU6 locus with 45 different alleles scored among 46 unrelated individuals. The probability that the same genotype combination would occur in two random and unrelated individuals at six selected loci was as low as 1.3 × 10-8 and the combined exclusion probability was 0.9996. Stable Mendelian inheritance was observed in about 1000 meioses. No significant linkage was revealed and for almost all combinations of marker-pairs, linkage closer than 5 cM could be excluded. At two loci, null (nonamplifying) alleles were encountered. Thirteen (30%) extra-pair offspring were identified in 5 (56%) broods when applying the marker set on a nearly complete swallow colony. We were able to identify a single male from the other families in the colony as the most likely father for nine of the 13 extra-pair offspring.