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Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon pyrrhonota ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: HIRUNDINIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Busy flocks of Cliff Swallows often swarm around bridges and overpasses in summer, offering passers-by a chance to admire avian architecture and family life at once. Clusters of their intricate mud nests cling to vertical walls, and when a Cliff Swallow is home you can see its bright forehead glowing from the dim entrance. These common, sociable swallows are nearly always found in large groups, whether they’re chasing insects high above the ground, preening on perches, or dipping into a river for a bath.

Songs

While courting and nesting, Cliff Swallows sing a series of guttural grating sounds and squeaks, usually lasting up to 6 seconds.

Calls

Their most common call is a soft chur. They also give a squeak when foraging and a purr-like alarm call when predators approach the colony.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

One easy way to find Cliff Swallows is to look for their gourd-shaped mud nests clustered under horizontal overhangs—many a highway overpass is swarming with Cliff Swallows in summer. To find these birds while they’re out foraging, head to a lake, river, or wetland and seek out foraging flocks of swallows. Scan the swallows carefully, focusing on finding a square-tailed bird with a pale, pumpkin-colored rump and dark upperparts. Scan the upper levels of a foraging flock, as Cliff Swallows often forage higher than other species.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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