November Bird Group meeting

The group met at Barbara Jackson’s home to discuss these two birds (and other recent happenings in our bird-watching lives). In the USA/Canada, the Rough-winged Swallow is seen fairly regularly(including around the GTA), while the Cave Swallow is only found in Southern Texas/New Mexico. It is quite similar to the Cliff Swallow which does nest in Southern Ontario. The detailed notes below were put together by Carolyn Mancey.

cave swallow2


There are 83-90 swallows species worldwide excluding Antarctic (depending on authority); live near houses and farms; forage in large groups and nest in colonies; avoid perching in foliage, therefore easily seen in open; most catch bugs in flight.
Names, History, Status:  (Mike) Petrochelidon fulva; Stelgidopterix ruficolis; gr. Stelgidos = scraper; ptteryx = wing, plus curved hooks on outer primaries; Pot rufus = reddish; aka Bridge Swallow, Gully Martin or Rough-wing.Names, History, Status:  (Mike) petrochedon fulva: Petro = gr. stone or rock referring to places where nests are built; chelidon = swallow; Lat. Feebera = reddish yellow; aka Buff-throated swallow, Cohulia Cliff Swallow, Cuban Cliff Swallow; population is increasing and expanding to Southwest; late-fall wanderers to Northeast increasing dramatically in frequency and abundance.  Expansion of breeding range is aided by willingness to nest in bridges and culverts.
Migration & Range:SE Alaska, most of NOrth AmericaMigration & Range:Local north of U.S.; few nest in U.S.; Mexican and West Indies species; rarely seen on east coast; winters in tropics, Texas, New Mexico, Carlsbad Caves Ntl Park; range increasing in recent years.
Enemies, Courtship & Behaviour:Gregarious; do not gather in large flocks unlike Cave Swallow; slow and deliberate movement; Bird banding (7,851) only recovered .19% recovered; monogamous.Enemies, Courtship & Behaviour:  (Dana)Gregarious; population increase 10.8% annually; social; may share nest sites with other species; possible interbreeding?
Voice, Song & Food:Flight call a rough fzzzap or fzzzup; song slow series of notes similar to flight call; quiet overall compared to other swallows; forages silently.Voice, Song & Food:  (Athena)Eat “on the fly”; flight call higher-pitched, more clipped than Cliff Swallow, cha or chacha; song a sputtering series of short ch and cha notes interspersed with weak trills.
Nesting, Eggs & Habitat:Breeding habitat is near streams, lakes and river banks; nest in cavities near water; does not breed colonially; usually burrow in dirt or artificial sites (masonry holes); prefers kingfisher or other species holes; return to nest burrow if displaced; declining population due to weasels, pesticides, although successful in raising young; 4-8 eggs incubated by female for 13 days & another 20 days until fledging.Nesting, Eggs & Habitat:North American subspecies nest in caves, sinkholes and commonly man-made structures i.e. highway culverts; South American species prefer open areas such as cliffs and the side of buildings; Cup-shaped nest open at the top; 3-5 eggs; both sexes incubate eggs; blind at birth & can’t retain body heat; remain in nest 20-22 days; both parents feed nestlings insects throughout the day; only female develops brood patch; will use barn swallow nests; 2 species coexist at some nesting sites.
Comparison, Field Marks & Identifiers:Barbs pronounced on males, may be for attracting females; small, overall drab & stubby, somewhat roundly proportioned, “mouse” of a swallow – distinguished by its lack of distinction; when perched it is slightly larger and pudgier than the Bank Swallow, slightly smaller than Tree Swallow; plumage seems disheveled or shabby “rough”; most of bird is dull brown; belly is dirty, not bright white; immature bird has darker tail and rufous wing bars “just a stubby bran coloured swallow with a dirty chest and dingy white underparts”; in flight overall fairly compact and roundly contoured; wings are proportionately blunter than other swallows; tail is broad and blunt when closed but short and rounded when fanned or spread; plain dingy brown above, whitish below with a dirty chest showing no iridescence or paleness on the rump; flight a little slower and more casual than other swallows “a swallow that takes care of business without panache” – wing beats are slower, shallow and fluttery.Comparison, Field Marks & Identifiers:Small bird slightly smaller than a Cliff Swallow; somewhat short-headed & roundly contoured; buffy throat patch and dark forehead; rump patch not commonly seen when perched and is [reddish] or cinnamon tinged; in some light wing has a brownish cast; Florida Cave Swallows have richer darker colours below but no whit forehead; in flight the Cave Swallow shares the rounded contours, flight is more delicate; wing beats like the Rough-wing are fluttery; square or slightly notched tail.