|Species: Cliff Swallow
The Cliff Swallow
is quite widespread, its range extending from southern Alaska,
across Canada to the Maritimes, the continental US, to southern
Mexico. A neotropical migrant, this bird spends its winters in South
America. It falls in the order of Passeriformes, passerines or
perching birds, and is a member of the Hirundinidae family, which
include other swallows and martins.
5.5 inches long and weighing in at around 21 grams, the Cliff
Swallow is a small, stocky bird with pointed wings and a short,
Adult: has a
dark grey-blue crown, back and wings, a dark tail, white belly with
spotted undertail coverts, although some white streaking on the back
is not uncommon. The auricular and throat are dark rufous, and the
white forehead and buffy-coloured nape and rump are fairly
distinctive. Both the adult male and female have identical plumage.
markings are quite variable in juvenile Cliff Swallows. Generally
similar to the adult, but will have a brown crown and back, instead
of dark blue; auriculars will be dark, but may have a pale throat.
The Barn Swallow has a deeply forked tail, a dark rump and forehead,
and is rusty-coloured underneath. The Cave Swallow's forehead is a
dark orange, with a pale throat and auriculars, but is local to the
south of Texas and parts of Central America.
Aerial insectivores, these birds can see seen diving in the air
after small flying insects, like mosquitoes, often over open fields
or small bodies of water. One Cliff Swallow will often alert others
with a call when a swarm of insects is found; by doing so, thus
keeping better track of their food.
Cliff Swallows prefer open areas, often near water, and avoid
heavily forested, desert, or high mountainous environments.
Originally nesting on cliffs as their name implies, they have
adapted to living on human-made structures, and will often build
nests under the eaves of houses and bridges.
Although they can
nest alone, Cliff Swallows are one of the most colonial of
passerines, and nest together in huge colonies, sometimes hundreds
or thousands strong. They build a jug-shaped nest out of mud
pellets, lined them with soft grass and feathers and often very
close to one another. Birds in the same colony breed synchronously,
and are known to steal nesting material from their neighbours. Cliff
Swallows are brood parasites within their own colony as well;
females will lay their own eggs in another nest, sometimes even
carrying the egg in her bill to transport it.
The young in a colony gather together in large groups called
'creches'. When parents return from feeding, they can recognize
their young primarily by voice; but because of the variability in
head markings on juveniles, it is possibly they also identify them
visually as well.
Status: (Least Concern)
currently hold a conservation status of Least Concern and and recent
trends show that populations are stable. These birds have in fact
adapted well to urbanization and the construction of concrete
bridges and buildings have lead to an increase in suitable nesting
habitat. There is some concern, however, about House Sparrows taking
over Cliff Swallow nests, as they are the same sized bird.