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Cliff Swallow--Strength in Numbers

Colonial nesters!

Cliff Swallows gather in spring, in nesting colonies of up to 3,700 nests. Look for swarms of them under bridges, under the eaves of barns, or even the side of your house. The swallows use mud to make gourd-shaped nests - side by side and jumbled together. Watch the video! And Cliff Swallows consume hordes of flying pests. For more about this bird, visit Cornell's All About Birds. You can learn about bugs that aren't pests at

Full Transcript

Cliff Swallow--Strength in Numbers

Adapted from a script by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!
[Flight calls of Cliff Swallows]
“Doubtless the Lord must love Cliff Swallows, else he would not have made so many of them.” The author William Dawson borrowed that concept from Abraham Lincoln, when he wrote about this social bird, the Cliff Swallow.
[More Cliff Swallow flight calls]
Cliff Swallows have returned from wintering in South America, and they’re gathering in nesting colonies. A single colony in the West may contain up to 3,700 nests. In the East, colonies are generally a bit smaller. Look for swarms of these swallows under bridges, on cliffs, under the eaves of barns, or even the side of a house.
[Sound of a large colony]
They construct their gourd-shaped nests out of mud, side-by-side and all jumbled together. One parent usually guards the nest, often peeking out of the round opening, showing its creamy-white forehead-patch.
[Sounds of colony continued]
Cliff Swallows consume hordes of flying insects. [Insects]
These birds have only five different calls, but one—a unique “squeak call”—tells others that they’ve found food. [Song contains squeak call] They seem to decode all this squeaking, rattling, and creaking. So, when one bird finds a swarm of insects, it spreads the word to its neighbors, perhaps part of the reason these birds thrive in large colonies.
[Song of the Cliff Swallow continued]
Find out about bird-friendly ways to garden when you come to our website,

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Flight call [107569] recorded by D.S. Herr; calls at a large nesting colony [111118] T. Sander; song with squeak note [105668] by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to   May 2011   Narrator:  Michael Stein
ID# (old: 050405CLSWKPLU) CLSW-01b-2009-05-20-MS-

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