Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva)

Cave Swallow

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Petrochelidon fulva | [UK] Cave Swallow | [FR] Hirondelle fauve | [DE] Hohlenschwalbe | [ES] Golondrina Pueblera | [NL] Holezwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Petrochelidon fulva NA, MA s USA, Caribbean, Mexico
Petrochelidon fulva cavicola
Petrochelidon fulva citata
Petrochelidon fulva fulva
Petrochelidon fulva pallida
Petrochelidon fulva poeciloma
Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis

Physical charateristics

Similar to the Cliff Swallow (rusty rump), but face colors reversed; throat and cheeks pale or buffy (not dark), forehead dark chestnut (not pale).

Listen to the sound of Cave Swallow

[audio: Swallow.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 28 cm wingspan max.: 32 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 18 days
fledging min.: 18 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : South USA, Caribbean, Mexico


Semi-open country.
Forages over any kind of open or semi-open terrain, especially near water. Breeding was formerly limited by scarcity of nest sites in natural caves or sinkholes. Now nests under bridges and in culverts, buildings, silos, many other artificial sites, allo
wing species to spread into new habitats.


Typically nests in colonies, sometimes with hundreds of pairs.
Nest: Natural site is on steep wall of cave or sinkhole, in area away from entrance but with at least some light. Artificial sites are on vertical surfaces in culvert
s, under bridges, or in buildings; in Yucatan Peninsula, may nest in ancient Mayan temples. In well-sheltered sites, nests may last for years and be used repeatedly. Nest (built by both sexes) is an open cup of mud plastered against wall. Birds in natural
sites gather mud on cave bottom, where it often contains much bat guano. Nest is lined with grass, bark fibers, plant down, and feathers.
Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 2-5. White, finely spotted with brown and purple. Incubation is probably by both parents, thought to be about 15 days.
Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest at about 20-26 days.

Feeding habits

Insects. Diet not known in detail, but feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including beetles, flies, true bugs, wasps, bees, winged ants, grasshoppers, lacewings, moths, and others.

Behavior: Forages almost entirely in flight, pursuing flying insects and eating them in the air. May forage low over water or may forage much higher, mainly in clear warm weather. Often forages in flocks.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Cave Swallow status Least Concern


Southern New Mexico, south-central Texas, Mexico, West Indies, to Peru. Nests in colonies in limestone caves in southeastern New Mexico and along southern edge of Edwards Plateau, Texas. Often builds its icuplike
nests under bridges. Rapidly expanding range. Accidental in southern Arizona. Individuals have been seen north to dash line in Texas.

Distribution map

Cave Swallow distribution range map

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