March 19 – Swallows Return to San Juan Capistrano Day


Every year on March 19, the “miracle” of the swallows takes place at the Mission San Juan Capistano, California.Coinciding with the religious holiday St. Joseph’s Day, every year thousands of cliff swallows migrate to the church to reclaim the nests they have made in the ancient arches of the Mission. The arches of the building are bare and exposed due to the roof of the old building collapsing during an earthquake in 1812. The site of the once great Chapel has been left untouched; being built near two rivers the Mission is the perfect spot for the birds to raise their young as the area provides a plentiful supply of insects and mud for maintaining their nests.
According to legend, the swallows began making their homes in the abandoned chapel after Father St. John O’Sullivan offered them shelter. A frustrated shopkeeper destroyed the nests outside of his shop and the swallows took up O’Sullivan’s offer, choosing to build their nests outside the Church.

On the Day of San Juan (October 23), the birds migrate back to Argentina, 6000 miles south of the Chapel for the winter.

~ Darcie Rae

American Cliff Swallow, source:



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