|Conservation status||Declines have been noted in a few areas, but general continent-wide trend is toward wider range and higher numbers.|
|Habitat||Open to semi-open land, farms, cliffs, river bluffs, lakes. Widespread in all kinds of semi-open country, especially near water, from prairies to desert rivers to clearings in northern forest. Breeds where it can find sheltered vertical cliffs or other surfaces for nesting and a supply of mud for building the nest; still unaccountably scarce or missing in some seemingly suitable areas.|
Feeds mostly on the wing. Often forages in flocks, and may feed low over the water or very high over other terrain. In bad weather, may feed on ground.
4-5, sometimes 3-6. White to pale pinkish, spotted with brown. Incubation is by both parents, 14-16 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 21-23 days after hatching.
Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 21-23 days after hatching.
Insects. Feeds mostly on a wide variety of flying insects, particularly beetles (including june beetles and adult weevils), true bugs, flies, winged ants, bees, and wasps. Also eats grasshoppers, mayflies, lacewings, and various other insects, plus some spiders. Occasionally eats berries.
Typically nests in colonies, sometimes with hundreds of nests crowded close together. Nest site is usually on vertical surface with some overhead shelter. Natural sites were on cliffs; most sites today on sides of buildings, under bridges, in culverts, or similar places. Nest is made of dried mud and shaped like a gourd, with large chamber for nest, narrowing to small entrance on side. Both sexes help build nest; inside of nest sparsely lined with grass and feathers. May repair and reuse old nest, sometimes that of another species.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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A long-distance migrant, wintering in southern South America. Migrates in flocks, traveling by day. This is the famous swallow that returns to the mission in San Juan Capistrano, California, every spring; traditionally the return is celebrated on March 19th, although the birds actually return to the general area in late February.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsConstant squeaky chattering and twittering.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Cliff Swallow
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Cliff Swallow
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.