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Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) on Nest photo Wikipedia Commons by Terry Gray
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park has one of the few Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) nesting sites in California. These swift flying insectivores nest in niches on sheer rock cliffs, shaded and bathed in mist from the frigid splash of a nearby cascade often behind a rushing torrent of falling water and abundant spray, but with at least trickle of water flow to keep the environment damp near the nest. The first Black Swift nest was found on a seacoast cliff near Santa Cruz, California in 1901. Since then it has been discovered that they also use inland sites with nests placed in cool, dark, damp nest caves near or behind waterfalls in the mountains. Check out my latest West Coast Beat Writer post on Burney Falls and the Black Swift over at 10000 Birds!
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) photos by Larry Jordan, click on photos for full sized images
The Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) is North America’s smallest swallow. It can be distinguish from the Northern Rough-winged Swallow by its dark breast band and the white of the throat curling up behind its ear.
The Bank Swallow was listed as a threatened species in California in 1989 by the California Fish and Game Commission and the number of breeding pairs has declined steadily since then.
The main reason for this rapid decline, as in the case of most species, is loss of habitat. In California, much of the Bank Swallow’s nesting habitat in the southern and central areas has been eliminated by flood and erosion-control projects. These projects destroy or alter nesting habitat when banks are sloped to 45° and large rocks (riprap) are placed on the slope.
Historically, all Bank Swallow colonies in North America were found in natural sites such as banks along rivers, streams, lakes, and coasts; today, many colonies are in human-made sites like sand and gravel pits and road cuts.
This colony in Fall River Mills, about an hours drive from my home, is just down river from Fall River Lake and is located on a busy highway.
The two photos above the video and these few that follow are a series I took of one of the birds beginning to dig a burrow.
The bird on the left of the photo is doing the digging. You can see some of the scrape marks in the middle of the frame.
Burrows are dug with the bill, feet, and wings as birds cling to a slight projection on the bank face, and dig using their bill in a rapid, slashing motion and feet in a scratching motion. Dislodged material from inside the burrow is ejected with vigorous kicks and wriggling body and wing shuffling movements1.
You will be able to see some of this digging behavior at the beginning of this video. While excavating burrows you will also see unpaired males performing their “territory circle-flights,” where they fly and sing in small circles around the burrow entrance advertising to unpaired females. The male perches on the burrow ledge displaying his white throat-patch if a female lands near the burrow after his display1.
Once the burrow is excavated, the male performs “invitation flights” as he overtakes flying females and lands at the burrow to entice the female inside.
Some of the birds must have already paired up. As you may have noticed in the video above, some were seen bringing nesting material into the nest burrows.
If you look closely, just to the left of this swallow’s wing, you can see it is carrying a feather in its beak.
Observing these different behaviors I believe these Bank Swallows were in different stages of the nesting process.
This appears to be a male inviting a female to his finished burrow…
standing on his porch singing…
then flying off to perform an “invitation flight?”
Since there is no sexual dimorphism between the male and female Bank Swallow you really can’t tell them apart until they begin incubating eggs, at which point the female will have a brood patch and the male will not.
But it’s fun trying to figure it out by observing their behavior.
Whether you’re looking at a male or female, they certainly are cute.
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Yet another tragic misstep by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) in it’s seemingly never ending quest to satisfy cattle ranchers and big game hunters is reflected in its proposal to delist the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus). In its press release Friday, June 7th, FWS [...]
Anna’s Hummingbird Female (Calypte anna) Bathing photo by Larry Jordan Make sure to check out my latest West Coast Beat Writer post over at 10000 Birds! It’s a photo layout of a female Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) bathing in the waterfall then preening with that long hummingbird beak in the Eucalyptus tree above the pond. [...]
Purple Martin Male (Progne subis) photos by Larry Jordan, click on photos for full sized images The Purple Martin (Progne subis) is a well known and popular bird in eastern North America where it breeds almost entirely in human-made martin houses. Only a few records of natural nestings east of the Rocky Mountains have been [...]
Western Bluebird Nestling (Sialia mexicana) photos by Larry Jordan (click photos for full sized images) Being the conscientious Bluebird Trail monitor that I am, I noticed Friday, on my way home from work, as I approached this nest box one of the nestlings was staring back at me out the entrance hole. I knew it [...]
I believe that a new Wildlife Conservation Stamp is essential to advance National Wildlife Refuge enhancement and conservation of wildlife habitat in the United States. Please join the conversation at 10000 Birds and let us know what you think about this important project. Did you like this? Share it:
American Wigeon Drake (Anas americana) at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR by Larry Jordan Take a tour along with me to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, just posted over at the Wildlife Conservation Stamp website. This incredible wildlife refuge located at the south end of the San Francisco Bay includes [...]
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Female photos by Larry Jordan (click for full sized images) We have six large hummingbird feeders surrounding our house in Northern California but we also have several flower beds and native plants that the hummingbirds enjoy. As I sat on my back porch last weekend, contemplating mowing the native grasses surrounding [...]
Pacific Coast Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) Female photos by Larry Jordan The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened. They are a Bird Species of Special Concern in California and were listed as endangered under the Washington [...]
Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) photos by Larry Jordan I recently attended the Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival located in Arcata and the surrounding areas of Northern California. One of the reasons I wanted to attend this magnificent seventeen year old festival was because of the diversity of birds and wildlife located in [...]
The Keystone Pipeline has more to do with birds than you may think. Please go over to 10000 Birds to read my latest West Coast Beat Writer post on this very important issue. If you don’t have time to do that, please take a few moments to click on at least one of the links [...]
Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) Male at Feeder by Larry Jordan The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is the smallest North American breeding bird1. This male just arrived at my home over the weekend. They arrive on breeding grounds before the females and, according to their range map, they probably breed here in Shasta County. Click on photos for full [...]