Cave SwallowPetrochelidon fulva

adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
juvenile
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult
Jim Culbertson/VIREO
Cave Swallow
Cave Swallow

Family

Description

5 1/2" (14 cm). A stocky swallow with a square tail, steel-blue upperparts, buff throat and rump, and chestnut forehead. The more widespread Cliff Swallow is similar, but has chestnut throat and white forehead, or, in Southwest, a chestnut forehead.

Voice

Series of squeaks, twitters, and warbles.

Listen

calls
calls

Habitat

Chiefly open country near caves and cliffs.

Range

Breeds in southern Texas, southeastern New Mexico, and rarely in southern Arizona. Winters in tropics.

Discussion

These birds are extremely local north of the Mexican border, and relatively few nest within the United States. Most nests are in inaccessible places, plastered to walls far inside remote caves and crevices. Like all swallows, Cave Swallows catch their insect prey on the wing. Birdwatchers have increasingly noted late fall incursions northward along the Atlantic seacoast as far north as Nova Scotia and inland along Lake Champlain.

Nesting

4 brown-spotted pinkish eggs in a mud nest lined with grass, roots, and feathers, attached to a cliff wall, cave, or, occasionally, to a bridge or old building.

Similar Species

adult

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

5-5 3/4" (13-15 cm). Pale brown above, white below, with dingy brown throat. Bank Swallow is similar, but smaller, and has white throat and brown breast band.

adult male

Tree Swallow

5-6 1/4"(13-16 cm). Sparrow-sized. Metallic blue or blue-green above and clear white below.

adult male

Violet-green Swallow

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Dark, metallic, bronze-green upperparts; iridescent violet rump and tail, the latter slightly forked; white underparts.

adult male

Barn Swallow

5 3/4-7 3/4" (15-20 cm). Sparrow-sized. Our most familiar swallow, and the only one with a deeply forked tail. Upperparts dark steel-blue, underparts buff, throat and forehead rusty.

adult

Cliff Swallow

5-6" (13-15 cm). Sparrow-sized. A stocky, square-tailed swallow with pale buff rump. Upperparts dull steel-blue; underparts buff-white; throat dark chestnut; forehead white.

adult male

Purple Martin

7-8 1/2" (18-22 cm). Our largest swallow. Adult male dark steel-blue. Female and immature male duller above, pale gray below.

adult

Bank Swallow

4 3/4-5 1/2" (12-14 cm). Sparrow-sized; our smallest swallow. Brown above, dull white below; breast crossed by distinct brown band; tail notched.

Vireo

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