The bird genus Hirundo is a group of passerines in the family Hirundinidae (swallows and martins). The genus name is Latin for a swallow.[1] These are the typical swallows, including the widespread barn swallow. Many of this group have blue backs, red on the face and sometimes the rump or nape, and whitish or rufous underparts. With fifteen species this genus is the largest in its family.

Hirundo rustica -Saxony, Germany-8
A barn swallow collecting nest material in Germany
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Subfamily: Hirundininae
Genus: Hirundo
Linnaeus, 1758

See text


Genetic evidence has recently shown that many of the species previously included in Hirundo are less closely related than their appearance might suggest; these species are sometimes treated in the separate genera Cecropis (e.g. red-rumped swallow Cecropis daurica, previously Hirundo daurica) and Petrochelidon (e.g. cliff swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, previously Hirundo pyrrhonota); they are as distinct from typical Hirundo as the house martins in the genus Delichon.

Extant species

The genus contains fifteen species:[2]

Extinct species

There are at least two fossil species included in this genus:

  • Hirundo gracilis (late Miocene of Polgardi, Hungary)[3]
  • Hirundo major (Pliocene of Csarnota, Hungary)[3]

Former species

Some authorities, either presently or formerly, recognize several additional species as belonging to the genus Hirundo including:

Distribution and habitat

All of the species are found in the Old World, although one, the barn swallow, is cosmopolitan, also occurring in the Americas.


Hirundo rustica at Montlake Playfield, Seattle 03
H. rustica foraging
Windows in the tail of H. rustica
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii by Dr. Raju Kasambe
Tail streamers of H. smithii filifera
Hirundo rustica nest Kuivaniemi 20140614 02
Nest of H. rustica
Hirundo rustica gutturalis nest and 3 eggs
Clutch of H. rustica gutturalis
Hirundo smithii MHNT
Clutch of H. smithii


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 193. ISBN 1408125013.
  2. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Swallows". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b Kessler, E. (2013). Neogene songbirds (Aves, Passeriformes) from Hungary. Hantkeniana Budapest 8: 37-149.
  4. ^ "Cecropis domicella - Avibase". avibase.bsc-eoc.org. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
Angolan swallow

The Angolan swallow (Hirundo angolensis) is a species of swallow that is native to the Afrotropics.

Barn swallow

The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. It is a distinctive passerine bird with blue upperparts and a long, deeply forked tail. It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In Anglophone Europe it is just called the swallow; in Northern Europe it is the only common species called a "swallow" rather than a "martin".There are six subspecies of barn swallow, which breed across the Northern Hemisphere. Four are strongly migratory, and their wintering grounds cover much of the Southern Hemisphere as far south as central Argentina, the Cape Province of South Africa, and northern Australia. Its huge range means that the barn swallow is not endangered, although there may be local population declines due to specific threats.

The barn swallow is a bird of open country that normally uses man-made structures to breed and consequently has spread with human expansion. It builds a cup nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight. This species lives in close association with humans, and its insect-eating habits mean that it is tolerated by humans; this acceptance was reinforced in the past by superstitions regarding the bird and its nest. There are frequent cultural references to the barn swallow in literary and religious works due to both its living in close proximity to humans and its annual migration. The barn swallow is the national bird of Estonia.

Black-and-rufous swallow

The black-and-rufous swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

Blue swallow

The blue swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea) is a small bird within the swallow family which is in the order Passeriformes. Swallows are somewhat similar in habits and appearance to other aerial insectivores, such as the martins (also a passerine) and the swifts (order Apodiformes). It breeds in the Afromontane (from South Africa to Tanzania), wintering north of Lake Victoria.

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.

Dark-winged lesser house bat

The dark-winged lesser house bat (Scotoecus hirundo) is a species of vesper bat. It can be found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and United States of Africa

Ethiopian swallow

The Ethiopian swallow (Hirundo aethiopica) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. Although it is non-migratory, its range is wide, extending from Benin to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Israel, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.

Fairy martin

The fairy martin (Petrochelidon ariel) is a member of the swallow family of passerine birds which breeds in Australia. It is migratory wintering through most of Australia, with some birds reaching New Guinea and Indonesia. It is increasingly a wanderer to New Zealand, where it may have bred. This species is frequently placed in the genus Hirundo as Hirundo ariel. It is [[monotypic]]

This is a bird of open country near water, and is usually seen near its nest sites in cliffs, culverts or bridges.

Pacific swallow

The Pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It breeds in tropical southern Asia and the islands of the south Pacific. It is resident apart from some local seasonal movements. This bird is associated with coasts, but is increasingly spreading to forested uplands. The hill swallow was formerly considered conspecific.

This species is a small swallow at 13 cm. It has a blue back with browner wings and tail, a red face and throat, and dusky underparts. It differs from the barn swallow and the closely related welcome swallow in its shorter and less forked tail.The Pacific swallow builds a neat cup-shaped nest, constructed with mud pellets collected in the beak, under a cliff ledge or on a man-made structures such as a building, bridge or tunnel. The nest is lined with softer material, and the clutch is two to three eggs. It is similar in behaviour to other aerial insectivores, such as other swallows and the unrelated swifts. It is a fast flyer and feeds on insects, especially flies, while airborne.

Pearl-breasted swallow

The pearl-breasted swallow (Hirundo dimidiata) is a small swallow. It breeds in southern Africa from Angola, southern Zaire and Tanzania southwards. It is partially migratory with many birds from the south west of South Africa wintering further north.

This is a bird of dry scrub, farmland and clearings. It is often found around human habitation. The pearl-breasted swallow builds a bowl-shaped mud nest reinforced with grass or hair and with a soft lining. It sometimes uses old nests of the greater striped swallow, Hirundo cucullata.

The nest may be reused in later years, and one was utilised for 30 years. The nest is built in natural cavities or man-made structures such as buildings, culverts and shafts, but its preference for isolated and abandoned buildings means that this species has not benefited from artificial sites to the same extent as, for example, the greater or lesser striped swallows.

The two or three eggs are pure white, and are incubated by the female alone for 16–17 days to hatching. Both parents then feed the chicks. Fledging takes another 20–23 days, but the young birds will return to the nest to roost for a few days after the first flight.

The pearl-breasted swallow is 13–14 cm long. It has glossy blue upperparts and grey-white underparts. The upper wings, underwing flight feathers and forked tail are blackish-blue. The underwing coverts are a darker shade of grey-white. The lack of white in the tail is a distinction from similar Hirundo species. The outer feathers are slightly longer in the male than the female. Juveniles are duller and browner than the adult, with shorter outer tail feathers.

The northern subspecies, H. d. marwitzi is darker and smaller than nominate H. d. dimidiata, but the differences are small, and the species may be monotypic.

The pearl-breasted swallow is sparsely distributed, but can be locally common. It feeds mainly on flying insects, with a fast direct flight. The call is a chittering chip cheree chip chip.

Pied-winged swallow

The pied-winged swallow (Hirundo leucosoma) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. It has distinctive steel-blue upperparts with white wing patches. It is native to parts of West Africa.

Red-chested swallow

The red-chested swallow (Hirundo lucida) is a small non-migratory passerine bird found in West Africa, the Congo Basin and Ethiopia. It has a long, deeply forked tail and curved, pointed wings.It was formerly considered a subspecies of the closely resembling barn swallow, however, the adult red-chested swallow differs in being slightly smaller than its migratory relative, in addition to having a narrower blue breast band and shorter tail streamers; juveniles are more comparable to barn swallow chicks.

Red-rumped swallow

The red-rumped swallow (Cecropis daurica) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It breeds in open hilly country of temperate southern Europe and Asia from Portugal and Spain to Japan, India, Sri Lanka and tropical Africa. The Indian and African birds are resident, but European and other Asian birds are migratory. They winter in Africa or India and are vagrants to Christmas Island and northern Australia.

Red-rumped swallows are somewhat similar in habits and appearance to the other aerial insectivores, such as the related swallows and the unrelated swifts (order Apodiformes). They have blue upperparts and dusky underparts.

They resemble barn swallows, but are darker below and have pale or reddish rumps, face and neck collar. They lack a breast band, but have black undertails. They are fast fliers and they swoop on insects while airborne. They have broad but pointed wings.

Red-rumped swallows build quarter-sphere nests with a tunnel entrance lined with mud collected in their beaks, and lay 3 to 6 eggs. They normally nest under cliff overhangs in their mountain homes, but will readily adapt to buildings such as mosques and bridges.

They do not normally form large breeding colonies, but are gregarious outside the breeding season. Many hundreds can be seen at a time on the plains of India.

Striated swallow

The striated swallow (Cecropis striolata) is a species of swallow found in open, often hilly areas, clearings and cultivation in South and Southeast Asia to northeastern India and Taiwan.

The striated swallow was formerly sometimes considered to a subspecies of red-rumped swallow.


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.)

Tree martin

The tree martin (Petrochelidon nigricans) is a member of the swallow family of passerine birds. It breeds in Australia, mostly south of latitude 20°S and on Timor island. It is migratory, wintering through most of Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia east of the Wallace Line and the Solomon Islands. It is a vagrant to New Zealand, where it has bred, and New Caledonia. This species is frequently placed in the genus Hirundo as Hirundo nigricans.

This is a bird of open woodland, preferably with large trees to provide nest holes. It is increasingly common in urban and suburban areas.

Welcome swallow

The welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family.

It is a species native to Australia and nearby islands, and self-introduced into New Zealand in the middle of the twentieth century. It is very similar to the Pacific swallow with which it is often considered conspecific.

This species breeds in southern and eastern Australia in a variety of habitats, mostly in open areas, man made clearings or urban environments, but not desert or dense forest. Eastern populations are largely migratory, wintering in northern Australia. Western birds and those in New Zealand are mainly sedentary.

White-bibbed swallow

The white-bibbed swallow (Hirundo nigrita), also known as the white-throated blue swallow, is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. It is found in Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

White-throated swallow

The white-throated swallow (Hirundo albigularis) is a small bird in the swallow family. It is a common species, found in southern Africa, which has benefited from the increased nesting opportunities presented by the construction of bridges and dams.

Wire-tailed swallow

The wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It has two subspecies: H. s. smithii, which occurs throughout Africa, and H. s. filifera, which is found in southern and southeastern Asia. It is mainly resident, but populations in Pakistan and northern India migrate further south in winter. The genus name Hirundo is the Latin word for swallow. The species name smithii commemorates Christen Smith, a Norwegian botanist and geologist.

Swallows (family: Hirundinidae)


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