American Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Summary 5

Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) are a medium-sized (5-6 inches) swallow, with dark metallic blue wings and back, pale breast, and buff-brown rump. They also have a reddish brown throat/face and a white patch on the forehead and a squared-off tail. Male and female Cliff Swallows are similar to one another in all seasons.

You can here examples of their calls here:

Similar SpeciesBarn Swallow Barn Swallows are lighter blue and have a large forked tail and lack the white patch on the forehead.

Where on campus? 6

In spring and summer, Cliff Swallows nest on campus on the sides of buildings in large colonies. You can watch them fly in and out of their nests as well as watch them feeding in the air above the grassy patches around campus.

Habitat 6

Historically, Cliff Swallows were found in areas with cliffs such as canyons and river valleys. Because they have adapted well to nesting on human made structures, they now can be found nesting on buildings, bridges, and overpasses. Their major specific habitat requirement is a nearby source of mud for nest building and open fields, grasslands and marshes for feeding.

Life History 6

Nesting Males start building a nest and the female will join in. The nests are built from mud carried in their bills. Mated pairs associate at the nest but are not monogamous. Females will produce 1-2 broods/year. Cliff Swallows are colonial nesters and will nest in groups of hundreds to thousands of birds.

Feeding Cliff Swallows eat insects that they catch on the wing.

Distribution 6

The Cliff Swallow breeds across Alaska, Canada, and much of the United States outside of the desert southwest and southeast. In winter, this species migrates south to southern South America.

Migration 6

Cliff Swallows migrate through Mexico and into South America for the Winter and return to Mexico, the US and Canada to breed.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Carol Foil, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  2. Donna Dewhurst, no known copyright restrictions (public domain),
  3. Ken Thomas, no known copyright restrictions (public domain),
  4. (c) Brenda Kay Forest, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  5. Adapted by gillian360 from a work by (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  6. (c) gillian360, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)

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