Black saw-wing

The black saw-wing (Psalidoprocne pristoptera), also known as the blue saw-wing or black rough-winged swallow, is a small passerine bird in the swallow family.

Black saw-wing
Black Saw-wing
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Psalidoprocne
P. pristoptera
Binomial name
Psalidoprocne pristoptera
(Ruppell, 1840)
Psalidoprocne pristoptera distribution map

Distribution and habitat

The black rough-winged swallow breeds in open wooded habitats, and has a preference for wetter areas, although some races occur in mountain grassland habitat. It breeds across Africa from eastern Nigeria and Ethiopia south to Angola, northern Zimbabwe and northern Mozambique. The subspecies P. p. holomelaena breeds down south-eastern Africa from southern Mozambique to the Cape in South Africa.

This species is mainly resident, apart from seasonal local or altitudinal movements, but P. p. holomelaena is migratory, spending the southern winter north of the breeding range. The nominate race P. p. pristoptera of the mountains of northern Ethiopia moves south after breeding.


The black rough-winged swallow is a small swallow at 13–15 cm length with a forked tail. Its plumage is blue-glossed black. Sexes are similar, but the female has shorter outer tail feathers, and less obvious wing serrations. Juveniles are brown with little gloss, and have short tails.

There are many subspecies of this swallow, which some authorities may split into different species. In particular, four northeastern races, including nominate P. p. pristoptera, have conspicuous white underwing coverts (all other subspecies are green-glossed and have completely dark underwings), and may be split as the eastern rough-winged swallow or eastern saw-wing (swallow), P. orientalis. This leaves P. p. holomelaena as the black rough-winged swallow, P. holomelaena. Other subspecies are also sometimes elevated to species status, but Turner and Rose take the view that all the races of the black rough-winged swallow are, at best, incipient species.


  • Shari saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) chalybdea
  • Petit's saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) petiti
  • Mangbettu saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) mangbettorum
  • Ethiopian saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) oleaginea
  • Blue saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) pristoptera
  • Brown saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) antinorii
  • Blanford's saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) blanfordi
  • Eastern saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) orientalis
    • Includes the race reichenowi
  • Black saw-wing Psalidoprocne (pristoptera) holomelas
    • Includes races massaica and ruwenzori


Black rough-winged swallows are usually seen in pairs or small groups hunting for flying insects in woodland clearings and edges, above forest, or over water. Their flight is weak and fluttering. It is a quiet species, but it gives a soft chrrp alarm call. There is also a contact call described for as chirr chirr cheeeu for P. p. holomelaena and tseeu tseu tsss-ip for orientalis.


The nest is constructed from grass, moss or similar materials, and built in a 30–60 cm long burrow in a vertical sand or clay bank. This is usually an old burrow of another species like a kingfisher, but may be excavated by the breeding pair. The clutch is two, sometimes three, white eggs. Only one parent, probably the female, incubates for 14–19 days to hatching, with a further 24–27 days until the young fledge.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Psalidoprocne pristoptera". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  • Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa, ISBN 1-86872-721-1
  • Turner and Rose, Swallows and Martins ISBN 0-7470-3202-5

External links


Atticora is a genus of bird in the swallow family Hirundinidae. These species are found in South America.

It contains the following two species:

White-banded swallow (Atticora fasciata)

Black-collared swallow (Atticora melanoleuca)

Banded martin

The banded martin or banded sand martin (Riparia cincta) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It is an inhabitant of the African continent.

Black-and-rufous swallow

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Blue swallow

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This bird breeds in montane grassland, preferring high rainfall, undulating areas. In winter it prefers open grassland, with bushes and trees. The nest is usually attached to the roof or side of a hole in the ground.

Forest swallow

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It is found in Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria.

Galápagos martin

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Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, pastureland, and heavily degraded former forest.

Grey-rumped swallow

The grey-rumped swallow (Pseudhirundo griseopyga) is a species of bird in the monotypic genus, Pseudhirundo, in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Peruvian martin

The Peruvian martin (Progne murphyi) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. It is found in Peru and far norther Chile.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, pastureland, and urban areas. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Preuss's cliff swallow

Preuss's cliff swallow (Petrochelidon preussi), also known as Preuss's swallow, is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.


Progne is a genus of birds. The genus name refers to Procne (Πρόκνη), a mythological girl who was turned into a swallow to save her from her husband. She had killed their son to avenge the rape of her sister.


The saw-wings, Psalidoprocne, is a small genus of passerine birds in the swallow family. The common name of this group is derived from the rough outer edge of the outer primary feather on the wing, which is rough due to recurved barbs. The function of this is unknown. The birds are 11–17 cm long and black or black-and-white in colour. The genus has an African distribution and all species can be found foraging over forest and woodland.

Sinaloa martin

The Sinaloa martin (Progne sinaloae) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It breeds semicolonially in sheer cliff faces within pine-oak forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico. Presumed migrant records also come from Belize and Guatemala. It is assumed to winter in South America.

Southern martin

The southern martin (Progne elegans) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Argentina and southern Bolivia ; in winter it migrates to the western Amazon Basin.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, and urban areas.


Stelgidopteryx (Baird, 1858) is a small genus of swallows. It contains two species:

Adults of both species are brown on top with lighter underparts and a slightly forked tail. They nest in cavities but do not excavate their holes or form colonies.

These birds forage in flight over water or fields, usually flying low. They eat insects.

"Rough-winged" refers to the serrated edge feathers on the wing of this genus; this feature would only be apparent in the hand.

Streak-throated swallow

The streak-throated swallow or the Indian cliff swallow (Petrochelidon fluvicola) is a species of swallow found as Native (breeder, year-round resident or winter visitor) in South Asia in the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It occurs as a Vagrant in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and the Middle-east.


The swallows, martins and saw-wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerine birds found around the world on all continents, including occasionally in Antarctica. Highly adapted to aerial feeding, they have a distinctive appearance. The term Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the barn swallow. There are around 90 species of Hirundinidae, divided into 19 genera, with the greatest diversity found in Africa, which is also thought to be where they evolved as hole-nesters. They also occur on a number of oceanic islands. A number of European and North American species are long-distance migrants; by contrast, the West and South African swallows are non-migratory.

This family comprises two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (the river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows, martins and saw-wings). Within the Old World, the name martin tends to be used for the squarer-tailed species, and the name swallow for the more fork-tailed species; however, there is no scientific distinction between these two groups. Within the New World, "martin" is reserved for members of the genus Progne. (These two systems are responsible for the sand martin being called "bank swallow" in the New World.)

Tumbes swallow

The Tumbes swallow (Tachycineta stolzmanni) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in northwestern Peru and far southwestern Ecuador.

Its natural habitats are dry savanna, coastal saline lagoons, and arable land.

Swallows (family: Hirundinidae)


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