American Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

American Cliff Swallow

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Petrochelidon pyrrhonota | [UK] American Cliff Swallow | [FR] Hirondelle a front blanc | [DE] Fahlstirn-Schwalbe | [ES] Golondrina Risquera | [NL] Amerikaanse Klifzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota NA, MA widespread SA
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota ganieri
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota hypopolia
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota minima
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota pyrrhonota
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota tachina

Physical charateristics

The Cliff Swallow is somewhat similar in appearance to the Barn Swallow. The back, wings, and crown of the adult is a deep blue like the Barn Swallow, but the Cliff Swallow has a light belly, chestnut-colored face, dark throat, and pale gray nape. Three field marks especially useful in distinguishing the Cliff Swallow from the Barn Swallow are the white forehead, buff rump, and short, squared-off tail. The Cliff Swallow also has two white streaks down its back. Juveniles are brown above, buff below, and have varying numbers of small white spots on their foreheads and throats.

wingspan min.: 28 cm wingspan max.: 30 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 14 cm
incubation min.: 14 days incubation max.: 16 days
fledging min.: 21 days fledging max.: 16 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : widespread


Cliff Swallows originally inhabited open canyons and river valleys with rocky cliffs for nesting. Many still nest in these habitats, but others have adapted to nesting on man-made structures, especially under bridges and freeways. Cliff Swallows can be seen in farmland, wetlands, prairies, residential areas, road cuts and over open water. They require a source of mud for their nests, and they apparently have specific nesting requirements that are as yet unknown, as their distribution is patchy, and there are many areas that appear to be suitable habitat that host no Cliff Swallows.


Cliff Swallows have tidy, well-constructed nests, formed from balls of mud that they collect in their beaks. These nests are built on vertical walls, natural or man-made, frequently with some sort of sheltering overhang. Barns, bridges, and large buildings are regularly used. Birds of both sexes begin by dabbing a circle of mud onto a wall and then adding mud-balls from the bottom of the rim up and out, eventually forming a jug-shaped nest. Unlike Barn Swallows, they do not add sticks or straw to the mud structure, but they do line the nest with grass and feathers. Both members of the pair incubate the four to five eggs for 14 to 16 days. Both feed the young, which leave the nest 21 to 23 days after hatching. The parents continue to feed the young for three to five days after they leave the nest. The young of a colony assemble in large cr

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