Cliff Swallow

Hey guys welcome back. And Happy Christmas to those out there that celebrate. Today’s bird is the cliff swallow. Like other swallows the cliff swallow can be seen flying rapidly over water or freshly cut fields as they gobble up flying insects mid-flight with their bat-like flight patterns. Cliff swallows look similar to bard swallows in that they are a dark metallic blue. Cliff swallows, though, have a lighter breast, light rump, and white forehead patch.

Cliff swallows under the Eads Bridge. St. Louis, MO

One of the few species that have actually benefitted from human development, their traditional western range has reached all the way to the Atlantic coast. Out west, there’s plenty of cliff faces to build their nests into, but fewer suitable cliffs exist in the east, so as humans developed the continent and built bridges over rivers and stream, the cliff swallows began using them for nest building. It’s the perfect spot really. They build their nests out of mud, and most bridges go over water, meaning where there’s bridges, theres usually mud! It was here that I saw my first cliff swallows. Shortly after moving to St. Louis, I took a trip down to Gateway Arch National Park. At the north end of the park is the famous Eads Bridge, which goes over the Mississippi River. I saw a bunch of swallows swarming around, and as I got closer to the bridge I noticed that they had white foreheads and light rumps. I then saw them flying to and from their mud nests which were tucked under the roadway of the bridge. They were my first St. Louis life bird!

Cliff swallow building a nest. Grand River Landing, Fairport, OH

Cliff swallows nest in colonies. In the east these colonies are often only a couple dozen birds, give or take. Out west, however, these colonies can number in the thousands! Once I moved back to Ohio, I found a couple parks where they frequented, including one where a bridge goes over the river that runs along the park and this bridge is pretty low to the ground, allowing for a very close look at the birds. Next up is our first crane species. See you all then!

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