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Fr: Moucherolle hirondelle
All : Schwalbentyrann
Esp : Atrapamoscas de Precipicios
Esp (Argentine): Birro castaño, Birro común
Esp (Colombia): Atrapamoscas Risquero
Esp (Paraguay): Birro castaño
Esp (Uruguay): Viudita Colorada
Ital : Pigliamosche dei dirupi
Nd: Zwaluwtiran
Sd: Klipptyrann
Port: Gibão-de-couro


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Photos d’Oiseaux du monde

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Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 9 - by Josep del Hoyo - Andrew Elliot - David Christie - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334695

BIRDS OF SOUTH AMERICA – Passerines - by Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor – HELM Field Guides – ISBN: 9781408113424

A GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF COLOMBIA by Steven L. Hilty and William L. Brown - Princeton University Press – ISBN 069108372X

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Page Family Tyrannidae

Page Order Passeriformes

Summary cards


Cliff Flycatcher
Hirundinea ferruginea

Passeriforme Order – Tyrannidae Family

Length: 16-18,5 cm
Weight: 21 gr

Sole member of the genus Hirundinea, the Cliff Flycatcher is specialized on aerial hawking from perches on cliff faces. Its peculiar morphological features such as short tarsi, long pointed wings, and long slender silhouette, are very similar to those of swallows.

The adult of nominate race has sooty-brown crown and upperparts. There is a large rufous patch at base of the flight feathers, forming a wingbar visible in flight. The tail is blackish above with cinnamon-rufous base and rump.
The underparts are deep ferruginous to cinnamon-rufous, including the underwing-coverts. The tail has cinnamon-rufous base.
On the head, the crown is dark sooty-brown and the cheeks are mottled white. There is a short whitish supercilium and a dark loral stripe.
The bill is blackish. The eyes are dark brown to blackish. Legs and feet are black.
Both sexes are similar.

We can find four subspecies:
H.f. ferruginea here described is found in extreme E Colombia, NW Brazil, SE Venezuela, SW Guyana and French Guyana.

H.f. sclateri is found in W Venezuela and S, on E slopes of E Andes from Colombia to SE Peru.
This race has more extensive white mottling on forehead and crown, paler chin and more extensive rufous on the inner webs of the undertail feathers.

H.f. pallidior occurs in N and E Bolivia, W Paraguay and NW Argentina.
This one shows wider rufous margins on wings and less rufous at tail base.

H.f. bellicosa is found in S and E Brazil, E Paraguay, NE Argentina and Uruguay.
It has more rufous-brown upperparts. Cheeks and chin are brown with dusky mottling. Rump and basal half of uppertail are orange-brown. On closed wings, we can see conspicuous rufous edging and panel. Tertials and wing-coverts have buff to pale brown margins.

The Cliff Flycatcher often utters a chatter of high-pitched calls, several rapid “killy, killy…” or “ka-leé, ka-leé…” including single or repeated notes “wheeeyp”. It also utters a continued “wha-deép, wha-deép…”
The song given at dawn is described as rapid, repeated, high “kit-ti-léé”.

The Cliff Flycatcher frequents cliffs and rocky canyons, roadcuts and buildings. It is mostly seen in foothills and cerros, but also in quarries and on bridges. It frequents the steep banks along mature and secondary forests.
This species is visible from sea-level up to 2000 metres, in the Andes between 900 and 2000 metres, and locally in Bolivia up to 3900 metres of elevation.

See above in subspecies.

The Cliff Flycatcher is an insect eater, and forages in pairs or in family groups.
Preys are caught from perch. The bird performs long aerial sallies and catches the prey by hawking. Then, it usually returns to the same perch.
They perch on exposed rock faces, cliffs and hanging vegetation or trees growing in crevices, from which it can overlook large open areas. It often perches horizontally. It also may be found on wires and buildings in urban areas.
Sallies are usually powerful and spectacular, swallow-like.

During the breeding season, courtship displays probably occur. During these displays, the rich rufous pattern of wings and tail is exposed. Wing-flapping is common in Tyrannidae species, accompanied with calls.

The Cliff Flycatcher is mainly resident in its range. However, the southernmost populations migrate during the austral winter, far from their typical habitat type.

The Cliff Flycatcher is conspicuous in flight, displaying the rufous colours of the wings. Its flight is fast and acrobatic. The long-distance sallies are performed with buoyant swallow-like flight. The bird swoops and glides in the air.

Juveniles are reported in December in Bolivia, and nests were observed in November in Argentina.
The Cliff Flycatcher usually nests on rock faces, but also on man-made structures such as bridges and buildings.
The process starts by a ring of stones on a ledge to give good stability to the structure. The nest is an open cup made with vegetal fibres and grasses. This nest may be placed in crevice too.

The female lays 2 white eggs with rusty markings. She incubates during two weeks. Both parents feed the chicks with insects. The young fledge about 15 days after hatching.
If the nest is threatened, both adults perform distraction display to lead the predators away from the nest-site.

The Cliff Flycatcher is an insect-eater. Preys are caught by long, aerial sallies from perches.

The Cliff Flycatcher can be locally fairly common.
Populations are probably increasing due to their new nesting behaviour on man-made structures, providing them numerous nest-sites.
The species is not currently threatened.