The Mascarene martin or Mascarene swallow (Phedina borbonica) is a passerine bird in the swallow family that breeds in Madagascar and in the Mascarene Islands. The nominate subspecies occurs on Mauritius and Réunion and has never been found away from the Mascarene Islands, but the smaller Madagascan subspecies, P. b. madagascariensis, is migratory and has been recorded wintering in East Africa or wandering to other Indian Ocean islands.
The Mascarene martin is a small swallow that has grey-brown underparts becoming white on the throat and lower abdomen, dark grey-brown upperparts and a slightly forked tail. The underparts are heavily streaked with black. It nests in small colonies anywhere with suitably sheltered sites for constructing a nest, such as ledges, buildings, tunnels, caves or amongst rocks. The nest is a shallow cup of twigs and other plant material, and the normal clutch is two or three brown-spotted white eggs. The incubation and fledging times are unknown. The Mascarene martin has a heavy flight with slow wingbeats interspersed with glides, and frequently perches on wires. It feeds on insects in flight, often hunting low over the ground or vegetation. In eastern Africa, open habitats such as deforested areas are frequently used for hunting. A number of internal and external parasites have been detected in this species.
Tropical cyclones can adversely affect populations on the smaller islands, but the Mascarene martin is a locally common bird with an apparently stable population and is classed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its legal protection ranges from none on the French overseas department of Réunion to a status on Mauritius as a "species of wildlife in respect of which more severe penalties are provided".
|At Ranomafana, Madagascar|
|Approximate range in Africa
Cotyle borbonica Gmelin, 1789
The Mascarene martin was first formally described in 1789 as Hirundo borbonica by German zoologist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in his 13th edition of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae. It is likely that the species had previously been described by French naturalist Philibert Commerson who died in Mauritius in 1773. His huge collection of specimens and notes was sent back to the Paris Museum in 1774, but destroyed by sulphur fumigation in about 1810. French biologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte moved the martin to his newly created genus Phedina in 1855. The genus name is derived from the Greek phaios (φαιός) "brown" and the Italian rondine "swallow", and the species name refers to the Île de Bourbon (old French name for Réunion). There are two subspecies, nominate P. borbonica borbonica on Mauritius and Réunion, and P. b. madagascariensis in Madagascar.
The Phedina swallows are placed within the Hirundininae subfamily, which comprises all swallows and martins except the very distinctive river martins. DNA sequence studies suggest that there are three major groupings within the Hirundininae, broadly correlating with the type of nest built. These groups are the "core martins", including burrowing species like the sand martin; the "nest-adopters", which are birds like the tree swallow that utilise natural cavities; and the "mud nest builders", such as the barn swallow, which build a nest from mud. The Phedina species nest in burrows and therefore belong to the "core martins".
The genus Phedina is thought to be an early offshoot from the main swallow lineage, although the striped plumage of its two species suggests a distant relationship with streaked African Hirundo species. The other member of the genus is the Brazza's martin P. brazzae, although in the past it has sometimes been suggested that Brazza's martin should be moved to its own genus, Phedinopsis, due to the significant differences in vocalisations and nest type from its relative. The nearest relation of the two Phedina martins is the banded martin, Riparia cincta, which appears not to be closely related to the other members of its current genus and resembles Brazza's martin in its nesting habits and calls. The current Association of European Rarities Committees (AERC)-recommended practice is to move the banded martin to its own genus as Neophedina cincta, rather than to merge it into Phedina, since the banded martin's larger size, different bill and nostril shape and non-colonial nesting are differences from the current Phedina species. German ornithologist Gustav Hartlaub separated the Madagascan population of the Mascarene martin as a full species, P. madagascariensis, but more recent authorities have considered it to be only a subspecies, P. b. madagascariensis.
Adult Mascarene martins of the nominate subspecies are 15 cm (5.9 in) long with wings averaging 117 mm (4.6 in) and weigh 23.9 g (0.84 oz). This small hirundine has dark brown-grey upperparts with faint streaking. It has grey-brown underparts becoming white on the throat and lower abdomen, all being heavily streaked with black. The slightly forked tail averages 54.6 mm (2.15 in) long and has white edges to the brown undertail coverts. The wings are blackish-brown and the bill and legs are black. The eyes are dark brown and the black bill averages 11.3 mm (0.44 in) long. The sexes are similar, but juvenile birds have more diffuse breast streaking, and white tips to the feathers covering the closed wing. The Madagascan subspecies is overall paler and larger-billed than the nominate form. It has denser streaking on the breast, but only very fine lines on the lower abdomen and on the white undertail. It is distinctly smaller than the nominate subspecies, 12–14 cm (4.7–5.5 in) in length with an average weight of 20.6 g (0.73 oz). This martin moults in December and January on Mauritius, and Madagascan breeders wintering on the African mainland moult in June and July.
The Mascarene martin is a relatively quiet bird, but it has a warbled siri-liri siri-liri song given in flight or when perched; some calls given by perched birds end in a glissando. Other vocalisations may be used during mating or displays of aggression. There is a chip contact call, and the young birds produce a fast twittering sound when begging for food. Birds wintering in mainland Africa are usually silent.
No other streaked swallow species occur within the island breeding range of the Mascarene martin, and in Africa the lesser striped swallow is larger, has a deeply forked tail and a very different plumage, with dark blue upperparts, a red rump and a chestnut head. The brown-throated sand martin has similar structure and plumage colour to the Mascarene martin, but has plain, unstreaked underparts. The small Mascarene swiftlet has longer, narrower wings than the martin, and a much lighter flight. The Brazza's martin is smaller, has a plainer back and finer dashing on the throat and chest, but there is no range overlap.
The Mascarene martin's breeding range is restricted to Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. The nominate subspecies breeds on Mauritius and Réunion and P. b. madagascariensis occurs in Madagascar. It may also nest on Pemba Island where it has been seen in the breeding season. Breeding habitat can be anywhere with suitable sites for constructing a nest, such as ledges, buildings, tunnels, caves or amongst rocks. The martin is found on the east side of Réunion between 200–500 m (660–1,640 ft), and on the south and west coasts of Mauritius. It also occurs on inland cliffs on Mauritius.
The subspecies P. b. borbonica is resident on Mauritius and Réunion, although there are local seasonal movements on these island, but the Madagascan subspecies is migratory. The Imerina Plateau is deserted from April to September, the martins moving to lower ground or to the African mainland. It is normally uncommon and local in coastal Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Pemba Island, and very rare in Kenya and mainland Tanzania, although large numbers sometimes winter in Mozambique or Malawi. It has also been recorded from Comoros and other Indian Ocean locations including at least four islands in the Seychelles. As of 2012, a total of eight birds had been sighted in the Seychelles, occurring in both the spring and autumn migration periods. Some of these records may be due to vagrant birds carried by cyclones. There are unsubstantiated claims of occurrences in the Transvaal.
The Mascarene martin has a heavy flight with slow wingbeats interspersed with glides, and may repeatedly return to a favourite perch. This martin is often seen perched on wires, and sometimes rests on sandy beaches. The martin roosts in small flocks in bushes, on buildings or on cliffs. Sometimes it is joined at the roost by other birds, such as blue-cheeked bee-eaters in the Seychelles.
The Mascarene martin nests in the wet season, August to November in Madagascar, and September to early January on Mauritius and Réunion. It breeds in groups typically comprising a few pairs, although a colony of about 20 pairs has been recorded on Mauritius. The nest is a shallow cup of twigs and coarse plant material such as grass and Casuarina with a softer lining of feathers and finer vegetation. It may be constructed anywhere suitably flat and inaccessible to predators, including locations 3–5 m (9.8–16.4 ft) over water, on slate ledges, or in underground passageways; one particularly unusual nesting site was on a small boat moored 20 m (66 ft) off the coast. The normal clutch is two eggs on Madagascar and Mauritius, but two or three on Réunion. The eggs are white with brown spots and average 21.6 mm × 15 mm (0.85 in × 0.59 in) with a weight of 2.5 g (0.088 oz) and are incubated by the female alone. The incubation and fledging times are unknown, although as with all hirundines the chicks are altricial, hatching naked and blind. The male helps to feed the young, and the chicks are fed by the parents after fledging, and one pair on Mauritius was observed to feed its two chicks at roughly five-minute intervals.
The martins feed in flight, often low over the ground or vegetation. They hunt singly, in small groups or with other swallows and swifts, and are most active just before dusk. The flying insects that make up their diet include scarab, click and other beetles, bugs and flying ants. The feeding habitat in Madagascar includes woodlands, agricultural land, wetlands, semi desert and open ground at altitudes up to 2,200 m (7,200 ft). In Mauritius and Réunion this martin feeds from sea level up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) over reservoirs and coasts, along cliffs and over Casuarina or other trees and scrubs, and in eastern Africa, areas deforested by logging or conversion to agriculture are used for hunting.
Mascarene martins will mob the Mauritius kestrel, suggesting that it is perceived as a potential predator. Martins on Mauritius may be infected by an endemic trypanosome, Trypanosoma phedinae, although the pathogenicity is unknown. Protozoan blood parasites of the genus Haemoproteus have also been found in the martin on Mauritius, although no blood parasites were found in a Madagascan specimen. A new species of louse fly, Ornithomya cecropis, was first found on a martin in Madagascar, and another bird from that island carried the feather mite Mesalges hirsutus, more commonly found in parrots.
The breeding range of the Mascarene martin is restricted to three islands. Madagascar has an area of 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi), but the next largest island, Réunion, is just 2,512 square kilometres (970 sq mi). Although this bird has a limited range, it is abundant on Mauritius and Réunion, and locally common in Madagascar. The population size is unknown, but exceeds the vulnerability threshold of 10,000 mature individuals and is believed to be stable. This martin is therefore classed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Tropical cyclones present a natural threat, particularly on the small islands inhabited by the nominate subspecies. The populations on Mauritius and Réunion were badly affected by a cyclone in February 1861, and a British ornithologist, Edward Newton, claimed not to have seen a single specimen on Mauritius between the six-day storm and June of the following year. It took many years for this population to fully recover, but by about 1900 it was reported to be common but local, and in 1973–74 there were 200–400 pairs on Réunion and 70–75 pairs in Mauritius. More recent cyclones, like one in 1980, seem to have had less damaging effects than the 1861 storm. A number of species in the region are vulnerable partly because they are restricted to one island, or are badly affected by habitat degradation or introduced predators, and several species have been lost from the Mascarene islands since human colonisation in the seventeenth century. The martin and the Mascarene Swiftlet occur on all the main islands, and are less vulnerable to the effects of human activities, especially since they can utilise houses for nest sites.
In Mauritius, the Mascarene martin is legally protected as a "species of wildlife in respect of which more severe penalties are provided". It is illegal to kill any bird of the species or to take or destroy their nests under section 16 of the Wildlife and National Parks Act 1993. although Madagascar and the African mainland countries have no special measures beyond general bird protection legislation. Réunion is an overseas department of France, but the Birds Directive does not apply outside Europe, so there is no European-level bird protection legislation effective on the island, despite the possibility that European Union agricultural and other funding may be adversely affecting birds and vulnerable habitats.
Archaeopteryx lithographica described by Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer
Death of Heinrich Rudolf Schinz, Frédéric de Lafresnaye and Édouard Ménétries and Prince Albert. Bird names honouring Prince Albert are Prince Albert's curassow, Menura alberti Albert's lyrebird and Prince Albert's riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus alberti)
Birds described in 1861 include many-colored Chaco finch, invisible rail, grey-capped tyrannulet, African river martin, black dwarf hornbill, Sulawesi myna, northern nightingale-wren, grey-tailed piha, fiery-billed aracari, Ross's goose,
Alexander von Homeyer collects birds in the Mediterranean.
In February The populations of Mascarene martin on Mauritius and Réunion are badly affected by a cyclone.
John Gould A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Humming Birds with 360 plates Volume 5 Species described in this work include scaly-breasted hummingbird, violet-tailed sylph and bronze-tailed plumeleteer.
Philip Sclater On the American Barbets (Capitoniae) Ibis, 3: 182–190.online
George Robert Gray Remarks on, and descriptions of, new species of birds lately sent by Mr. A. R. Wallace, from Waigiou, Mysol and Gagie Islands. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1861
Theodor von Heuglin travels to Africa to search for Eduard Vogel and his companions including Werner Munzinger, Gottlob Kinzelbach, and Hermann Steudner.Ongoing events
John Gould The birds of Australia; Supplement 1851-69. 1 vol. 81 plates; Artists: J. Gould and H. C. Richter; Lithographer: H. C. Richter
John Gould The birds of Asia; 1850-83 7 vols. 530 plates, Artists: J. Gould, H. C. Richter, W. Hart and J. Wolf; Lithographers:H. C. Richter and W. HartAtticora
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)Black-and-rufous swallow
The black-and-rufous swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.Brazza's martin
Brazza's martin (Phedina brazzae) is a passerine bird in the swallow family, Hirundinidae. It is 12 cm (4.25 in) long with grey-brown upperparts, heavily black-streaked white underparts, and a brownish tint to the breast plumage. The sexes are similar, but juvenile birds have more diffuse breast streaking and reddish-brown edges to the feathers of the back and wings. The song consists of a series of short notes of increasing frequency, followed by a complex buzz that is sometimes completed by a number of clicks.
The range of this species falls within the African countries of Angola, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nesting in burrows in river banks, it lays a clutch of three white eggs. This bird feeds on flying insects, including termites, and may hunt over rivers or open savanna. It forms mixed flocks with other swallows, but is readily identified by its combination of brown upperparts, streaked underparts and a square tail.
Although this little-known bird had been classified as Data Deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it actually appears to be common and widespread, and it has been listed as a species of Least Concern since 2008. There may be some hunting of this martin for food, but the species does not appear to be facing any serious short-term threats.Forest swallow
The forest swallow (Petrochelidon fuliginosa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.
It is found in Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria.Galápagos martin
The Galápagos martin (Progne modesta) is a species of bird in the Hirundinidae family, endemic to the Galápagos Islands.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, pastureland, and heavily degraded former forest.Mesalges hirsutus
Mesalges hirsutus is an acarid feather mite. It is a parasite of birds including several parrot species and the Mascarene martin of Madagascar.Ornithomya cecropis
Ornithomya cecropis is a biting fly in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. It was first isolated from the Mascarene martin, Phedina borbonica, in Madagascar.Phedina
Phedina is a small genus of passerine birds in the swallow family. It has two members, the Mascarene martin, Phedina borbonica, which has two subspecies in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands respectively, and Brazza's martin, P. brazzae, which breeds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Republic of the Congo, and northern Angola. The nearest relative of the Phedina martins is the banded martin, Riparia cincta, which resembles Brazza's martin in nesting habits and vocalisations. Both Phedina martins have grey-brown upperparts and paler, heavily streaked underparts. Adult Mascarene martins are 15 cm (5.9 in) in length, and Brazza's martin is smaller at 12 cm (4.7 in) long. Both species have brown wings, dark brown eyes and a black bill and legs. Juvenile birds have more diffuse breast streaking and pale edges to the feathers of the back and wings than the adults. Both species can be distinguished from most other swallows in their breeding or wintering ranges by the streaking on the underparts and lack of a deeply forked tail. The Mascarene martin has a warbled siri-liri siri-liri song given in flight, but Brazza's martin has quite different vocalisations, its song consisting of a series of short notes followed by a complex buzz and sometimes some final clicks.
Both species typically breed in small groups: the Mascarene martin builds a shallow cup nest of twigs and coarse plant material with a soft inner lining, whereas Brazza's martin makes a small heap of soft material such as feathers or dry grass at the end of a typically 50-cm (20-in) tunnel in a riverbank. The normal clutch is three eggs for Brazza's martin, two for Mascarene martins on Madagascar and Mauritius, and two or three for those on Réunion. As with other swallows, both martins feed on flying insects, hunting in single-species groups or with other swallows and swifts.
Brazza's martin may be hunted by humans, and both species may be infected with a variety of parasites. These swallows may be affected by poor weather when breeding, but neither appears to be under serious threat. The small islands which are the home of the Mascarene martin subspecies P. b. borbonica may be devastated by cyclones, which have the potential to cause severe temporary losses to the populations on Mauritius and Réunion. The legal protection afforded to the Phedina martins varies with jurisdiction, and ranges from none for Mascarene martins on Réunion to special protection for the same species on Madagascar. The Brazza's martin is not a protected species anywhere in its range.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
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.Saw-wing
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
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.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.)Trypanosoma phedinae
Trypanosoma phedinae is a species of excavates with flagellae first isolated from the Mascarene martin, Phedina borbonica, in Mauritius.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.