Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva)


French: Hirondelle à front brun German: Höhlenschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina pueblera

Hirundo fulva


, 1808,

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Often considered conspecific with P. rufocollaris, but recent cytochrome b evidence supports treatment as separate species. Race pallida recently proposed to represent a distinct species; cytochrome b data further suggest, however, that present species consists of two clades, one in W (S USA S to S Mexico) and other in E (Florida and Greater Antilles); additional study required. Several hybrids with Hirundo rustica recorded. Six subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. f. pallida Nelson, 1902 – Northern Cave Swallow – S USA (S New Mexico and Texas) S to NC Mexico (S to S Chihuahua, E Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and W Tamaulipas); some migrate to Central America (probably along Pacific coast of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua).
  • P. f. citata Van Tyne, 1938 – Southern Cave Swallow – S Mexico (C Chiapas, N Yucatán Peninsula).
  • P. f. cavicola Barbour & A. C. Brooks, 1917 – SE USA (Florida) and Cuba (including I of Pines).
  • P. f. poeciloma (Gosse, 1847) – Jamaica.
  • P. f. fulva (Vieillot, 1808) – Caribbean Cave Swallow – Hispaniola.
  • P. f. puertoricensis Garrido et al., 1999 – Puerto Rico#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–14 cm; 14–18 g. Nominate race has chestnut forehead to area above eye, blackish lores, glossy blue-black crown, grey-brown hindneck; mantle and back glossy... read more


    Song consists of initial squeaks, a warble and a terminal series of two-tone notes; other calls are... read more


    Open areas, often near water, especially ravines and cliffs where caves are present for nesting;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes bugs (both Heteroptera and Homoptera), flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera), wasps, bees and ants (Hymenoptera), butterflies... read more


    Late Feb to early Sept in Texas (probably including early nest-building) and late Apr to early Aug (peak May to mid-Jul) in New Mexico;... read more


    Migratory in N, resident or partial migrant in S. Often in small groups when not breeding, but... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Overall population estimated at c. 8,700,000 birds. Common throughout range. As this species’ natural nest-sites are generally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A. (2020). Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).