Black Rosy-Finch Use Cliff Swallow Nests to Roost

by Bryce W. Robinson


East of Boise, Idaho, on a cliffside along the Boise River is a conglomerate cliffside of volcanic rock. On this cliffside is a group Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) nests. The Cliff Swallow is migratory, so during the winter months the Cliff Swallow does not occupy these nests.

In winter, the mud cavity nest sites are utilized by other bird species as roost sites. Interesting, to me, is that wintering Rosy-Finch species use these nest sites as well. I finally succeeded in capturing a video clip of a Black Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte atrata) entering a mud cavity to roost for the evening.

The composition of the flocks at this particular site are also of interest. Take a look at the eBird checklist of the time I spent filming this small flock. Most were Black Rosy-Finch, the next most numerous were “Hepburn’s” which are a coastal breeding subspecies of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, and there was only one “tephrocotis” Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, the interior subspecies.

The regularity of this Cliff Swallow – Rosy-Finch relationship is of interest to me. I have read accounts of the behavior in California and Washington, but these accounts are few. I do not know of other areas that these birds currently use Cliff Swallow nests, but I will be searching for them and would appreciate any information from other’s observations.

Wintering ecology, what a fascinating faction of bird study.