Cliff Swallow

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Petrochelidon
Species: pyrrhonota

La. passer  sparrow, small bird
La. forma  form, kind, species
La. hirundo  a swallow
Gr. petros  a rock
Gr. khelidon  a swallow
Gr. purhos  red, flame-colored
Gr. noton  the back
Gr. -notos  backed

Cliff Swallow, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, The Book of Birds, 1921

Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Six inches long. Dark blue, almost black head, back, wings, and slightly forked tail. Cream-white forehead and ring neck. Gray breast, white underside, light chestnut rump. Richer, more reddish brown throat than that of the Barn Swallow.

Found throughout most of North America from Alaska to the southern edges of Hudson Bay, southern Quebec and Newfoundland, throughout the States excluding the Southeast from the Carolinas to southern Louisiana. Winters in the tropics.

USGS Cliff Swallow Map

Builds gourd shaped enclosures with small entrance holes out of mud pellets and lined with grass, straw and feathers on, in colonies of sometimes fifty or several hundred on cliff, wall or beam faces, under bridges often above water or under out building eaves.

Flocks return to the same colonies year after year, disappear for a few years, then return for a few more.

Lays three to six spotted white eggs, which hatch after about two weeks incubation and young leave the nest in about another three weeks.

Catches flying insects and skims insects off the surface of ponds. Sometimes fruit.

Dives at intruders near their nests snapping their beak as when they catch insects and pulling up before colliding. Gather in large flocks before fall migration.


Cliff Swallows, Allan Brooks, Birds of Western Canada, 1926


The Swallow Ledge has an approximately 1" by 6" base, approximately a 6" ceiling, an open front and partially open sides.

Mount a platform high inside an open barn or shed for Barn Swallows or on the side of a garage, or porch under open shelter or an eave for Barn or Cliff Swallows. Do not mount in a tree. Make sure objects that cats and squirrels can climb do not provide access to the nest.

Robins, Phoebes and Song Sparrows may use this nest.

Dimensions of this platform are recommended for Barn and Cliff Swallows by several sources and efforts to attract them with platforms or modified structures have worked. Honestly though, chances are if Cliff or Barn Swallows are going to build a nest in a barn or under an eave or bridge, they can do so just fine without help. Insects and water are probably greater factors.

Most often they attach their nest to the side of a wall under an eave or a bridge beam, not on a shelf. A roof without a shelf or a very narrow shelf may be better.


Cliff Swallow  Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, Henrik Gronvold

Henrik Gronvold



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