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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Rough-winged Swallow -- Stelgidopteryx serripennis

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern Alaska, central British Columbia, and southern Alberta to southwestern Quebec and central Maine south to Central America and south-central and southwestern Florida. Winters from southern Texas, southern Louisiana, and southern Florida south to Mexico and Central America.

STATUS: Fairly common.

HABITAT: Inhabits open country, including open woodlands, wherever a suitable nest site near water can be found. In the East, frequents rocky gorges, shale banks, stony road cuts, railroad embankments, river valleys, and stream banks. In the Midwest and West, often found around gravel pits, stream banks, and other exposed banks of sand, dirt, or gravel.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Suitable nest sites preferably near, but up to 1/2 mile from water.

NEST: Excavates nests in banks of clay, sand, or gravel or uses abandoned bank swallow or kingfisher burrows and sometimes natural rock crevices, drainpipes, culverts, cracks in bridges, and crevices in buildings. May nest singly, in scattered groups, or in small colonies; tends to be more colonial in the western part of its range.

FOOD: Feeds on the wing, catching primarily flies and other flying insects.

REFERENCES: Beal 1918, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1979, Lunk 1962.

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