Swallows Return to Capistrano
North participants report Barn Swallows, people at Mission San Juan Capistrano
search for a close relative, the Cliff Swallow. Cliff Swallows traditionally
return to the Mission in mid-March, and their arrival is celebrated on March
19 every year. Will they make it back on time this year?
The Cliff Swallows have been coming back to San Juan Capistrano from their
Argentina wintering grounds every mid-March for thousands of years, and
people have been welcoming them since at least 1910. Why do they return
to the Mission so faithfully? To learn more about this wonderful rite
of spring and how it inspired a popular song, see
Both Cliff and Barn Swallows build their nests of mud. Barn Swallows make
a cup nest that they stick on the walls of a barn or other structure.
Cliff Swallows build a nest shaped like a gourd, with little holes for
the incubating parent or the babies to peek out of.
Photo Courtesy of James R. Gallagher
at these Cliff Swallow nests and think about what the swallows must do
to build them. What habitat requirements must swallows have to make these
nests? Why do you suppose the nests have this unusual texture, as if they
were made of mud marbles?
This! Journaling Question
- List at
least two or three special habitat needs of Cliff Swallows in their
nesting area. Why are all the mud pellets that make up a Cliff Swallow
nest about the same size and shape?"
More About Swallows:
Visit our Barn
Swallows Resource Page
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