Living Bird Magazine
Living Bird Magazine
Cave SwallowPetrochelidon fulva
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Hirundinidae
The Cave Swallow devours flying insects with quick airborne twists and turns that show off its chestnut rump patch and forehead. True to its name, it often roosts and nests inside the entrances to caves, sharing the space with bats. More recently, Cave Swallows started nesting under bridges and culverts and expanding their range northward. These colonial nesters collect mud and bat guano with their bill to build a nest that they cement onto walls and ledges.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Visiting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is one surefire way to see a Cave Swallow. They nest inside the main cavern, making it easy to watch them fly in and out. Outside Carlsbad, look for them under bridges, near other caves, or foraging above water. They’re often with other swallows, so look for their chestnut rump patch to pick them out of the crowd. Cave Swallows also turn up from time to time in the northeastern United States. These rarities often show up from late October through mid-November following a fast-moving low pressure system. Look for these errant birds foraging over water.
- Golondrina Pueblera (Spanish)
- Hirondelle à front brun (French)
- Cool Facts
- Two different subspecies of Cave Swallow are found in the United States. The southwestern form is the largest with grayish sides and a very pale throat. The Caribbean form, which reaches Florida, has more tawny sides, a darker chestnut face, and a darker rump. Another subspecies is found in the Yucatán, and two others occur in South America.
- Thanks to expanding highway infrastructure, the Cave Swallow has expanded its range and now takes to nesting under bridges in Texas and Florida.
- Since the 1990s, Cave Swallows, particularly young birds, have started turning up thousands of miles outside their southern range in the fall—some have been detected as far north as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada. Fast-moving low pressure systems likely push these young birds to the northeast.
- The oldest recorded Cave Swallow was at least 12 years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in New Mexico.