Mystery Bird: Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva

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[Mystery bird] A young-of-the-year Cave Swallow, Petrochelidon fulva, photographed at Chambers County, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 26 June 2010 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/500s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

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

This mystery bird species is extremely local and seasonal in the southernmost portion of the USA, nesting in very limited numbers only in southern Texas and New Mexico.

Review all mystery birds to date.

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Having dipped so badly on the King Rail, I'm going to swallow my pride, and give this one a go. The US breeding range nails this one down, though I can't say I ever saw one with a brown back. Would it be a juvenile? The pale nape is just barely visible.

By Pete Moulton (not verified) on 30 Jun 2010 #permalink

This is a tricky one for me as I haven't seen the juveniles of the N. American Martins. It doesn't look like either Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) or Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
I think this leaves Tree, Cliff and Cave Swallows, all of which I have seen only the adults. Following Pete's clue Tree is out of range as a contender so I will have to research the other two and get back on this one.

I was thinking either a cliff or cave swallow - juvenile. Given the extremely local and seasonal range, I have to say Cave Swallow.

The God of Evolution realised that since all bird's heads faced the same direction, a large food supplyâthe tasty stuff behind themâwas underexploited. This is an early experimental model for a new linespecies of reversed-head birds to fill an obviously-empty niche.

This shot does give an idea of the breeding season for these guys, doesn't it?

At first glance: N. Rough-winged -- but mindful of Grrl's comment as to breeding range, I simply have no idea--back to the books!!