Posts Tagged ‘Cliff Swallows’


 Sketches of rescued Cliff Swallows.  Rough drawings and renderings for a painting, repousse/chasing and other artwork.

Swallows’ Day Poster

 Inerested in purchasing a signed copy of the poster, please contact by e-mail, monique  The illustration/drawing is on the back cover of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society’s new book, “Swallows Legend and Facts,” by Don Tryon.




Swallows – 8 species in 6 genera

Bahama, Bank, Barn, Cave, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, Tree,

Violet Green

Cliff – buff & rust rump w/drk rust brown throat, wht spotted forehead

Northern-Rough-winged – grayish brown, light under side

The two most prevalent in San Juan Capistrano are the Cliff and Northern Rough-winged.


Past 100 to 150 years the swallows have extended their range across the North America as far as Alaska to the north and to the Eastern coast in part due to the development of bridges and buildings.  They provide nesting sites.

In 1776 in Utah a Spaniard, Silvestre Velez de Escalante observed the Cliff Swallow.  The Cliff Swallow was one of the first North American birds to be described.

Spring Migration:  moving North from South America.  First arrive in Southern California early February.  Recorded on February 24, 1994 a continuous flock of swallows of 150 birds/min.

Fall Migration: generally peak time is in August and September back to So. America.  There is little information of the migratory behavior.

Food:  flying insects

Cliff Swallows prefer nesting in colonies but can have a single nest sight.  Their tail is squared off compared to a Barn Swallow who has a distinctive forked tail (refer to my illustrations on Swallows).  Numbers can range from 200-400 nests and a site in Nebraska recorded 3700.   Courtship occurs soon after arrival and they visit nest sites future and/or existing.  Once paired up begin next building. Both male and female help to build the mud gourd shaped nest.  They gather mud in their bills along streams or new housing tracks.

A pair can bring 44 mud pellets in a 30 min period. Approx. 7 days to build a complete nest.

Number of Eggs 4-5,   incubation 14 –16 days.  Both parents tend to eggs and young.

The Cliff Swallow has the distinctive gourd shaped nest made of hundreds of mud pellets.

Cliff Swallows (Huel)

"Cliff Swallow"
“Cliff Swallow”

Monique F. Rea Copyright 2010 

Huel Howser used this drawing of the Cliff Swallow for the video jacket of his,  “Swallows of  Mission San Juan Capistrano” video. The drawing is on the cover of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society’s new book, “Swallows Legend and Facts,” by Don Tryon.

The drawing is mixed media, watercolor, pen and ink to illustrate a Cliff Swallow at it’s nest colony site.  These special insect eating birds migrate 6,000 plus miles from South America to North America to build their gourd shaped mud nests in order to lay their eggs and raise their Swallow nestlings.  The city of  San Juan Capistrano is one of many locations they return to each year.  The scouts begin to arrive at the end of February in Southern California.  The rest follow soon after.  The Cliff  Swallow species is the only one that builds the mud gourd shaped nest.  It takes hundreds of mud pellets to patiently construct one nest and many, many trips back and forth from their mud source.  They can have 2-3 broods in the season depending on the food supply in the area.  They begin their long journey back to South America beginning in September from San Juan Capistrano.  The further north they are the earlier they begin.  Eating as many bugs, insects for the long journey back.  Always look upon these beautiful birds as beneficial guests to be treated with respect and gratitude.

I have posted a tribute to a Cliff Swallow under the category, “Tribute to Swallows”

Cliff Swallows (three)

"Cliff Swallows"
“Cliff Swallows”


The is mixed media drawing, watercolor and Prisma colors.  These three were in my care until they were able to be released.
I have posted a tribute to a Cliff Swallow under the category “Tribute to Swallows”.