Mystery Bird: Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva, and Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica

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[Mystery bird] Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva (L) and Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica (R), photographed at Smith Point, Texas. [I will identify these birds for you tomorrow]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 24 October 2008 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/640s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

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Looks like a cliff swallow. Texas has cave swallows, also, but I'll go with cliff. I don't know how the photographer got two to sit still long enough to snap this photo.

I'm kind of torn here. I'm going to say that they're actually two different species, with the lefthand bird being the Mexican race of the Cliff Swallow, and the righthand bird being a Barn Swallow. I realize I've increased my chances of being wrong somewhere, but I've also increased my chances of being at least somewhat right, right?

Anyway, those are my guesses.

Hmmm, tough one, because of the regional variations. I'm going to guess Cave Swallow, because the foreheads on both birds are orange. The bird on the left has a squarish tail tip, which works for either Cave or Cliff Swallows.

Bird on left = Cave Swallow, for reasons stated above.

Bird on right = I'm confused! *cries*

I'm going with cave...all the cliff swallow pics I could find have white on the head, not the rufous color shown.

I think that these two birds are both Barn Swallows. The one on the right is an adult and the one on the left is a juvenile.

Bird on left is a Cave Swallow due to lack of dark hood that a Cliff Swallow would have. Bird on right is a typical Barn Swallow

A juvenile Barn Swallow would be duller than an adult Barn Swallow with a pale, buffy rather than rufous forehead chin and throat, not so brightly patterned as the bird on the left. A Cliff Swallow would have a pale forehead. The bird on the left is a Cave Swallow.

The plumage coloration and the long tail on the bird on the right mark it as an adult Barn Swallow.

By Larry Gardella (not verified) on 22 Jan 2009 #permalink

I'm sure the bird on the right is a Barn Swallow, as people have said. I think the bird on the left is a dark-throated Cave Swallow. That's not because of the forehead color, since as John Callender said, the Mexican race of Cliff can have a dark forehead, but because the throat blends into the underparts and has only a small black spot. That's not a whole lot to go on, though.

By Jerry Friedman (not verified) on 22 Jan 2009 #permalink

Just a question about scientific name: Why is it Hirundo rustica? masculine "o" followed by female sp. ending in "a" ? (Sorry I don't have a proper keyboard. . ) M.

By Murray Hansen (not verified) on 24 Jan 2009 #permalink

There's no requirement for genus and species names to agree in gender and they often don't - another example is Panthera leo.

I wish I'd checked this site in time to guess these - I knew them! I mixed them up two years ago, and learned them then.