Nesting Cliff Swallows

Cliff Swallows nestingCliff Swallows nesting – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/200, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday at East Canyon State Park in Morgan County I was able to photograph Cliff Swallows nesting on a cliff face that overlooks the reservoir. Some of the nests were completed and some were still being built. Cliff Swallows are social birds and they usually nest in colonies on natural and manmade structures like bridges, overpasses, culverts and under the eaves of buildings.

After selecting a colony location both the male and the female gather mud pellets to build their gourd shaped nest that may consist of up to 1,200 individual mud pellets. Female Cliff Swallows lay eggs in their own nests and also in a neighboring nest and occasionally the female will lay the egg in her own nest then carry the egg in her bill to a neighboring nest.

Cliff Swallow at Bear RiverAdult Cliff Swallow at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, +0.3, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Cliff Swallows are common throughout Utah and are listed as a species of least concern but humans do have an impact on them through the use of pesticides because small flying insects are their main source of food.

The Cliff Swallows I photographed at East Canon State Park yesterday skim over the reservoir in search of prey. It will be a few weeks before the first fledglings start to leave their nests and join the adults on the wing.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. I saw “swarms” of swallows during my travels this past couple of weeks. I also have them nesting around my house which is a new one as well.

  2. Your photography always keeps me coming back for more!

  3. Love these photos! Thanks, Mia!

  4. Communal living at its very best. Does the swallow who carried her egg to a neighbours nest leave it there? And does the other family raise it?

  5. Jane Chesebrough

    Fascinating, we have some here in the riverbank. How long does it take to build a nest?

  6. Interesting photos and info — especially the close up, very good. Love to watch their fast flying, which remind me of small jet-aircraft in a dog-fight.

  7. Patty Chadwick

    Wonderful all the babies in “jars”

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