Cliff swallows nesting on the underside of a bridge that carries the Blue Ridge Parkway across the James River in Virginia.
The gregarious Cliff Swallow nests in large colonies on buildings, cliffs, and under bridges. The gourd-shaped mud nests can number up to several hundred or thousand in a single location.
Nest is a covered bowl made of mud pellets, with a small entrance tunnel on one side, Lined with grass. Nest placed on a vertical wall, usually just under an overhang.
When a Cliff Swallow has had a hard time finding food, it will watch its neighbors in the nesting colony and follow one to food when it leaves. Although sharing of information about food at the colony seems unintentional, when a swallow finds food away from the colony during poor weather conditions it may give a specific call that alerts other Cliff Swallows that food is available. By alerting other swallows to a large insect swarm an individual may ensure that the swarm is tracked and that it can follow the swarm effectively.
When young Cliff Swallows leave their nests they congregate in large groups called crèches. A pair of swallows can find its own young in the crèche primarily by voice. Cliff Swallows have one of the most variable Juvenal plumages, and the distinctive facial markings may help the parents recognize their chicks by sight too.
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