Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota – Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota - Cliff Swallow found all throughout United States

The cliff swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota is a member of the Hirundinidae family of swallows and martins. A pyrrhonota is a purrhonota, which means “flame-colored” and -notos means “backed”. Cliff swallows make mud gourd nests with narrow entry holes. Their nests are densely packed under bridges or along mountain ledges.

Quick Overview: Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota – Cliff Swallow
Body size: Around 5.5 in (14 cm) and a weight of 23 g (0.6 oz)
Main colors: Orange, Chestnut, White, Cream, Black, Blue, Pink
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Cliff Swallow Description

Cliff swallows have square tails with orange rumps and chestnut throats. Adults have chestnut chins, throats, and neck sides. Breasts are white or cream. Some birds have a triangular cream or white forehead patch with a black or blueish crown. Pink rumps are possible. Cliff swallow bills are black. Adults have brown legs and feet, whereas youngsters are pink with a cinnamon color. Juvenile plumage is duller than adult plumage. The hue of their necks and foreheads varies greatly within this age group. Nestlings have brown irises with a hint of yellow.

Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota - Cliff Swallow found all throughout United States
Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota – Cliff Swallow. Photo by: Becky Matsubara


These birds have a length of 5.5 in (14 cm) and a weight of 23 g (0.6 oz). Their wings could range from 12 in (30 cm).


Seeds and gravel have been claimed to help break up meals during digestion. Cliff swallows eat from 50m and higher when foraging. Insects prefer grassy regions, although lakes, ponds, and rivers can provide food when bug populations are low. People in certain societies eat terrestrial invertebrates like ants.


Cliff swallows breed in canyons, hills, and valleys. Buildings and bridges provide refuge for nesting birds, allowing them to breed in grasslands and towns. Food and nesting materials are readily available in any nesting place near water or mud. Nesting occurs between sea level and 2770 m but can occur up to 3200 m.


Cliff swallows have the biggest colonies of all swallow species. Colony size ranges from 200-3700 nests overall. Solitary nesting is unusual and usually happens near a big colony. Their colony engages in brood parasitism, depositing eggs in neighboring nests. This reduces reproductive effort and increases reproductive yield. The nest’s inhabitants suffer the opposite impact. Birds often blow up feathers to defend nests. The white spots on cliff swallows’ heads may indicate nest ownership.

Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Genus: Petrochelidon
  • Species: Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Barred owl in the USA

Breeds throughout North America, from subarctic Alaska, Ontario, and Nova Scotia down through the majority of the United States, save for the southern states, and into Mexico.

The Cliff Swallow can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota – Cliff Swallow

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