*New – added Violet-green Swallow on May 26, 2015 to the Photo Gallery

Two visits to the Bell View Trail SW in Rancho Margarita in late May 2015 produced some reasonably good photos of this seldom scene species.

Here’s a shortcut link to the Violet-green Swallow photo gallery with a few teaser photos below.

Photo taken on the Bell View Trail (SW) in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on May 25, 2015
Photo taken on the Bell View Trail (SW) in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on May 25, 2015
Photo taken on the Bell View Trail (SW) in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on May 25, 2015
Photo taken on the Bell View Trail (SW) in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on May 25, 2015

3 Responses

  1. Doug Willick

    (This is permitted by Doug Willick and a copy and paste as originally posted in the Orange County Birding Yahoo Group on May 26, 2015)

    Hi Anthony,

    Just thought I’d post this to the group, as it’s interesting that these Violet-green Swallows (VGSWs) are being seen fairly regularly, and at this late date. Migrant VGSWs typically come through in spring fairly early (starting in February, with most coming through in March, and just some stragglers into April). These birds you’re seeing, Anthony, are undoubtedly breeders from either somewhere in the nearby foothills, or (more likely I’m thinking) from further up in the Santa Ana Mountains. “Birds of Orange County, CA (1996)” states that this species “breeds fairly commonly, but quite locally, in the foothills and mountains.” In retrospect, now almost 20 years later (yikes, can it really be that many?), I’m not so sure about VGSWs breeding fairly commonly/locally in the foothills, but back in the 1980s to maybe early 90s, a few pairs used to regularly be present all summer in the low foothills immediately adjacent to Santiago Oaks Regional Park (I presumed these to be breeders in the local area, although I don’t think these were confirmed as such during our Breeding Bird Atlas work conducted from 1985 to 1990). I don’t think they’ve bred (or at least been seen in summer) in the Santiago Oaks area for quite awhile now.

    Due to the location of this reservoir (along the Bell View Trail) being so close to Trabuco Canyon, and it being at the very base of the Santa Ana Mountains, I would guess that these are likely breeders from up in the upper Trabuco Canyon area, and it’s associated side canyons (or even “lower” Trabuco, just above the reservoir area). Undoubtedly they’ve learned that this reservoir is a productive foraging site (probably lots of midges, etc.). These VGSWs could well be coming and going from nest sites further up in the canyon/mountain. We have known for quite awhile that the VGSWs nests in some of the upper canyons in the Santa Ana Mountains, such as Silverado and Trabuco, as well as San Juan Canyon to the south; in some of these sites, at least back in the 1980s and 1990s, they were indeed fairly common up there in the summer.

    From the photos on your website, Anthony, it would appear to show both males and females (the upperparts being slightly brighter on males, versus the slightly drabber females, on average, and especially the facial features, with males showing clean white faces and many females showing dusky colored faces). Immatures can be quite drab, but will still show the white patches that almost meet on the top of the rump. Anyway, I’m glad to see we still have this attractive swallow breeding (presumably) in our Orange County mountains.

    Doug Willick
    Orange, CA

  2. OC Birds Admin

    Thank for allowing the sharing of this invaluable insight on the Violet-green Swallows in Orange County, CA Doug.

  3. Doug

    No problem Anthony. Of the five swallows that are known to breed in the county (Barn, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, Tree and Violet-green), Violet-greens are probably the least well known as far as how many and precisely where they actually nest. Back in the early 1990s I remember seeing some entering holes in vertical rock walls in upper Blind Canyon, in the northern portion of the Santa Ana Mountains, and suspected they might also nest in upper Fremont and Gypsum Canyons (seeing this species regularly in those canyons during the breeding season). Also back in the 1980s I remember seeing some nesting in similar situations (high rock walls) in Holy Jim Canyon. Frequently, VGSWs are known to nest in old vacated woodpecker cavities in trees, such as one might commonly see in the San Bernardino National Forest, for example. And during the OC Breeding Bird Atlas field work, done back in 1985 to 1990, apparently nesting VGSWs were found to be using both tree cavities, as well as cavities in cliff faces. If copies can still be obtained, I recommend the “Atlas of Breeding Birds; Orange County, CA”, by Sylvia Gallagher; published by Sea and Sage Audubon Press (which may possibly still be available at the Book/Gift Store at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.
    as reported in the Atlas of Breeding Birds; Orange County, CA” by Sylvia Gallagher

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