Cave Swallows in Jamaica

Our last big video from the Jamaican Golden Swallow expedition was from the Blue Mountains. This time I have some footage of a colony of Cave Swallows we found at the end of our trip when we were driving along the north coast of the island. About fifty or sixty birds live in this shelf of rock overhanging the ocean, having created nests in the walls with mud pellets.

In the video above, you can see Justin swimming under the natural bridge to get a better view of the birds as they circle around to check on their nests, possibly choosing which ones they will use this breeding season and looking for spots to improve. When they weren’t flying right over the water, they were up over the rock, foraging in the skies between twenty and sixty feet above the ground. Since the species has been spreading a bit into Texas and Florida in the last couple decades, Cornell’s All About Bird website has an account for the Cave Swallow, so you can learn a bit more about it by visiting here.


By pure coincidence, Justin just found a surprising reference to Cave Swallows in the general vicinity of the area we were in when I took the videos above, by the great ornithologist Philip Henry Gosse, who illustrated the first Golden Swallow, back in 1847:

[The Cave Swallow (Hirundo fulva)] delights in the neighbourhood of caverns and overhanging rocks, in the hollows of which it builds its ingenious nest. About a mile from Bluefields, the sea washes a precipitous rock of no great height, on the summit of which is an old fort… The foot of the cliff is girt with irregular masses of honey-combed rock, between which the incoming tide rolls, and frets, and boils, in foaming confusion; and the front is hollowed into caves, some of which are long passages with an opening at each end, and others are merely wide-mouthed, but shallow hollows. In one of these I counted forty nests of this species of Swallow, each consisting of a half cup, built with little pellets of mud…

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