These slender, sleek birds are well known for their long migration and nesting habits. Cliff and barn Swallows spend their winters in South America and summers in North America. They arrive around March in the southern part of the country, reaching the northern states in April. They are very territorial and will always come back to the same nesting site. These Swallows have made a very successful switch from cliffs and caves to man made structures for placement of their mud pellet nests. Increased insect populations from modern agriculture and shelter created by man made structures are two reasons given for this transition. Unfortunately, this success has often been at the expense of a frustrated homeowner. The Swallow now faces strong competition from the introduced house sparrow for food and shelter. This may be why their numbers appear to be dwindling. Swallows are a protected species and their arrival is a sign of spring for many. The return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano in California is a well-noted annual festival.
Cliff Swallows and barn Swallows both have brownish red faces and throats plus a steel blue coat and a light colored belly. Squared off tails identify Cliff Swallows (pictured) while barn swallows have deep forked tails. Juveniles have similar coloring but a duller finish.