Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Northern Rough-winged Swallows on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail

I took my customary stroll on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail (still not completed!) this afternoon, and wasn't seeing a lot of bird activity, but the river was running clearer than normal, so I found spot where I could watch the water flowing from about 20 feet above. I finally realized that there were several small birds perched on a willow branch above the water. I zoomed in and got some pictures.

The pair of birds were unfamiliar to me, although their extremely long wings suggested that they were swallows of some sort. My best guess is that they are juvenile Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), but as always I am pretty new at bird identification and would welcome an expert's judgement here [Postscript: Silver Fox is suggesting Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), and I find it convincing; see comments].
They would occasionally fly out over the water, but the only quarry I saw them catch was a foxtail seed. Here's a short video; they were very cute.


  1. I wonder if they are Northern Rough-winged Swallows. I say this partly because these look much lighter gray than any juvenile (or new hatchling) Tree Swallows I've seen, and for sure by spring, last year's hatchlings look pretty much like regular adults (especially the males), maybe a little smaller. It seems early for this year's hatchlings to be out -- our tree swallows (at 4500' or so) haven't laid any eggs yet, but yours might be on a different schedule. This link compares the two.

  2. I think you are probably right. Thanks for the assistance!