American cliff swallow
|American cliff swallow|
This bird averages 13 cm (5 inches) long with a tiny bill. The adult cliff swallow has an iridescent blue back and crown, brown wings and tail, and buff rump. The nape and forehead are white. The underparts are white except for a red face. The tail is square-ended.
Young birds are essentially brown above and whitish below, except for the buff rump and dark face. The only confusion species is the closely related cave swallow, which is richer in colour and has a cinnamon rump and forehead.
Like all swallows and martins, cliff swallows subsist primarily on a diet of insects which are caught in flight.
American cliff swallows breed in large colonies. They build conical mud nests and lay 3-6 eggs. The natural nest sites are on cliffs, preferably beneath overhangs, but as with the Eurasian house martin, man-made structures are now the principal locations for breeding. Female American cliff swallows are known to lay eggs in and move previously laid eggs into the nests of other birds within the colony.
This species has always been plentiful in the west of North America, where there are many natural sites, but the abundance in the east has varied.
European settlement provided many new nest sites on buildings, but the population declined in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the supply of unpainted barns declined. There has been a subsequent revival as dams and bridges have provided suitable sites.
These are the famous swallows whose return from Villa Ventana, Argentina every year to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California on (or around) March 19 is celebrated with a festival. In recent years, the swallows have failed to return to the mission.
The "Capistrano swallows" are now nesting in the Chino Hills of Southern California, north of San Juan Capistrano. Thousands of the small birds, up from "wintering" in Argentina, have built their mud nests in the eaves of the Vellano Country Club, with community buildings situated around a golf course in the Chino Hills.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Petrochelidon pyrrhonota". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Esquivel, Paloma (25 March 2009). "Another year without swallows. Festival goes on without birds at historic mission". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 10 August 2009.
- Gowen, Samantha (6 June 2010). "Swallows bypass O.C., alight in Chino Hills". Orange County Register. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- Swallows and Martins of the World; by Turner and Rose; ISBN 0-7470-3202-5.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article Cliff Swallow.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Petrochelidon pyrrhonota.|
- Cliff swallow videos on the Internet Bird Collection
- Cliff swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonota - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
- Cliff swallow species account - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Cliff Swallow photo gallery VIREO
- Cliff swallow, Birds of Nova Scotia
- Cliff swallow, Talk about Wildlife