“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Gays Mills in Crawford County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Cliff Swallows

(Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Cliff Swallows Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By K. Linzmeier, June 6, 2010
1. Cliff Swallows Marker
Inscription.  In the spring of 2003, after the old bridge on Hwy 171 over the Kickapoo River was replaced with this new one, Cliff Swallows started breeding under the concrete structure. Cliff Swallows are one of 6 species of swallows breeding in Wisconsin. They are a highly colonial bird with a complex social life. They migrate to South America each fall and return to North America each spring, a round-trip journey of more than 16,000 miles. They winter in southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Each year they leave their wintering range and head north starting in early February. They arrive in Wisconsin in May, select mates, build complex domed mud nests, lay eggs, raise their young and start the long journey south again. Remarkably all of this is usually accomplished by the end of July!

The nests are repaired or new ones built each year. The birds forage together in groups gathering the right mud to carry back to the nesting site. A pair was observed bringing 44 mud pellets in a 30 minute period. The mud is carried in their bills. These nests, originally built on vertical cliff surfaces, are now more commonly seen on the undersides
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of concrete bridges and culverts, and less often on buildings and cliffs. The birds seem to have learned that their nests are more secure and protected attached to the more stable concrete surfaces. The interiors of these enclosed gourd shaped nests keep occupants warmer in cool weather and cooler in heat. There is considerable variation in the mud's composition and strength from colony to colony. Some nests last for 11 years and some don't make it through one season without falling apart.

These beautiful little birds, which weigh little more than one half ounce, eat, drink, and bathe, entirely in flight. Bathing in flight involves a quick hard splash in the water and flying on. They eat swarming insects. Many of these are farm crop pests such as corn borer moths and grasshoppers, and they also eat mosquitoes and many other kinds of insects.

To learn more, please visit The Museum of the Kickapoo. Open weekends from 10 to 4, July through October.

Thanks to Dr. Charles Brown, Tulsa OK, Village of Gays Mills, WI, and Community Conservation Inc., Gays Mills, WI

Cliff Swallows breed throughout most of North America. They migrate over land to the Southern part of South America.
Gathering mud is a social activity.
A swallow feeding its young.
Topics. This historical marker
Kickapoo River and Bridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By K. Linzmeier, June 6, 2010
2. Kickapoo River and Bridge
is listed in this topic list: Animals. A significant historical year for this entry is 2003.
Location. 43° 19.16′ N, 90° 51.021′ W. Marker is in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, in Crawford County. Marker can be reached from Main Street (State Highway 171) west of West Orin Street, on the right when traveling west. Marker is in Robb Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Gays Mills WI 54631, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Gays Mills Sesquicentennial (within shouting distance of this marker); Gays Mills Apple Orchards (approx. 0.6 miles away); Beauford T. Anderson (approx. 5˝ miles away); James Davidson (approx. 6.4 miles away); Soldiers Grove Origin (approx. 6˝ miles away); Black Hawk Trail (approx. 8.7 miles away); John McCulloch (approx. 12 miles away); Trade Links – River Borne (approx. 13.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gays Mills.
Also see . . .
1. Cliff Swallow. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology; All About Birds. (Submitted on February 20, 2011.) 

2. Cliff Swallow. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on February 20, 2011.) 
Kickapoo River and Bridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By K. Linzmeier, June 6, 2010
3. Kickapoo River and Bridge
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on February 20, 2011, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,107 times since then and 64 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 20, 2011, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

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Oct. 2, 2023