South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 12 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Bluish-black back, wings, and crown; white forehead; chestnut lower half of head.

Cliff Swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonotaCliff Swallows are the species celebrated upon their spring return to the mission in San Juan Capistrano, California.  A very gregarious bird, Cliff Swallows often nest by the hundreds under bridges, highway overpasses, or sheltered locations on buildings.   Originally building their enclosed mud nests on cliffs, Cliff Swallows have taken advantage of human structures and have greatly expanded their range and numbers.  The huge Cliff Swallow colonies are welcomed with open arms by farmers because of the vast quantity of flying insects they can consume.

Habitat: Can be found in nearly any kind of semi-open country in summer in South Dakota, as long as suitable nesting locations are nearby.

Diet: Primarily flying insects, occasionally other insects.  Will also eat berries and fruit.

Behavior: Primarily feeds while in flight, most often by catching flying insects, but also by plucking insects from vegetation surfaces.  Gregarious, often foraging in large groups.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Long thin rattling and buzzing.

Migration: Summers throughout much of North America.  Winters in Central and South America. 

Similar Species: Barn Swallow

Conservation Status: Has likely substantially increased in both range and numbers in North America, as they have readily adapted to the use of man-made structures for nesting.

Further Information: 1)  Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Cliff Swallow

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Cliff Swallow"

3) Cliff Swallow

Photo Information: July 2008 - Minnehaha County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Cliff Swallow photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Cliff Swallow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout most of South Dakota.