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Cliff Swallow

The nesting habits of Cliff Swallows are fairly unusual in that these swallows are colonial nesters.  Here in the East you can find 20 or 30 of their nests under a bridge or the eaves of a barn (and occasionally on cliffs).  In the West, colonies consist of up to 3,500 nests! The construction of their gourd-shaped nest requires between 900 and 1,200 trips to mud puddles or stream banks, where they gather a mouthful of mud in the form of a pellet.  Often two swallows will build nests side-by-side, sharing the wall of mud that separates them. Unfortunately, according to the most recent Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, the Cliff Swallow population in Vermont has declined by 48% in the past 25 years, a fact which is attributed to competition with House Sparrows, a decline in insects due to diminishing farm land, and destruction of nests by humans.  These birds are more important insect predators than ever, with the bat population having suffered such a decline recently due to white-nose syndrome. 


6 responses

  1. Clyde A Jenne

    When we go away from an agrarian society we do damage to all types of wildlife. When I was a child,(yes I actually was one once) we had both Cliff and Barn Swallows at the farm.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    • I agree, Clyde…but I do wonder what it was like before man farmed the land.

      May 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  2. This is fascinating!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  3. SD

    What are the ruffed feathers I see in the photo of a cliff swallow? Along the leading edge of the wings close to the body. Maybe he’s just wet and his feathers took a wrong set?

    May 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    • They caught my attention, too. I’ve checked my other photographs, and every cliff swallow has similar markings — I believe it’s just the coloration of the wing feathers along the edge.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm

  4. wow! this is awesome!

    May 3, 2012 at 1:24 am

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