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Swallows: Hirundinidae

American Cliff Swallow (hirundo Pyrrhonota): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: American cliff swallows have a long square tail, black to blue back, rust-colored throat and rump, white forehead spot, and white to buff underside. They average 5.1 in (13 cm) in length and 0.8 oz (22.7 g) in weight.

Geographic range: This species breeds throughout North America and migrates to Central and South America in the winter.

Habitat: The cliff swallow builds its mud nest in covered areas such as the underside of cliffs and on the outside of overhanging human-made structures. They are found in a wide variety of biomes where water is available, and even in desert areas near towns and human-made construction. The nests are typically built in colonies, and unlike the barn swallow nest, they are completely enclosed with a small hole for coming and going.

Diet: American cliff swallows feed on insects while the birds are flying.

Behavior and reproduction: Cliff swallows are monogamous, migrating birds. They return to their mud nests annually to lay a clutch of three to six eggs, which they incubate for about two weeks. The brood leaves the nest approximately three weeks after hatching. Some cliff swallows are parasitic, and will lay their eggs in other cliff swallow nests within their colony to be incubated and raised by the other birds.

American cliff swallows and people: Human-made structures like bridges and dams provide an attractive spot for many cliff swallow colonies and in this sense the birds have benefited from development and construction.

Conservation status: American cliff swallows are common and are not considered threatened. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsSwallows: Hirundinidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Swallows And People, Conservation Status, Barn Swallow (hirundo Rustica): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION