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Cave Swallow

Petrochelidon fulva ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: HIRUNDINIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Cave Swallow is a locally common swallow of Texas, Mexico, and the Caribbean. True to its name, it often roosts and nests inside the entrances to caves, sharing the space with bats.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
5.5 in
14 cm
Weight
0.6–0.9 oz
17–25 g
Other Names
  • Hirondella fauve, Hirondelle (French)
  • Golondrina de cuevas, Golondrina fulva (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Two different subspecies of Cave Swallow are found in the United States. The southwestern form is the largest, has grayish sides, and a very pale throat. The Caribbean form that reaches Florida has more tawny sides, a more reddish face, and a darker rump. Another subspecies is found in the Yucatan, and two others occur in South America.
  • Cave Swallows that nest in the twilight zone of caves often have their nests in places with minimal light. Individual birds appear to be able to locate these nests by flying past the nest site and then turning toward the nest, which is in better light than the bird’s darker vantage point.
  • The oldest recorded Cave Swallow was at least 12 years, 2 months when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in New Mexico in 2005, where it had been banded in 1993.

Habitat


Grassland

Nests in some natural or human-made structure (cave, sinkhole, building, silo, bridge, culvert). During the day forages over nearby open areas, often near water.

Food


Insects

Flying insects.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–5 eggs
Egg Description
White, with fine dark spots.
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Flattened cup made of mud pellets, sometimes with sides extending up and enclosing the bowl. May be covered, with a small entrance tunnel on one side. Lined with grass and plant fibers. Nest placed on a vertical wall, usually in twilight zone of cave or sinkhole. Colonial.

Nest Placement

Building

Behavior


Aerial Forager

Catches insects in flight.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Cave Swallow populations grew significantly between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 3 million, with 79% spending at least part of the year in Mexico, and 29% breeding in the U.S. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. As numbers have expanded, the species' range has also grown, and birds will use non-cave breeding sites, especially bridges and culverts under roads. Cave Swallow is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.

Credits

Range Map Help

Cave Swallow Range Map
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