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.
|at Botriver, South Africa|
Although a well-known plot point in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the term "African swallow" is highly ambiguous; there are many African birds in the swallow family and called "swallow":
Genus Cecropis, mud-nest building swallows:
Lesser striped swallow, Cecropis abyssinica
Greater striped swallow, Cecropis cucullata
Red-rumped swallow, Cecropis daurica (range extends beyond Africa)
West African swallow, Cecropis domicella
Red-breasted swallow, Cecropis semirufa
Mosque swallow, Cecropis senegalensis
Genus Hirundo open-cup nesting swallows:
Ethiopian swallow, Hirundo aethiopica
White-throated swallow, Hirundo albigularis
Angolan swallow, Hirundo angolensis
Blue swallow, Hirundo atrocaerulea
Pearl-breasted swallow, Hirundo dimidiata
Pied-winged swallow, Hirundo leucosoma
Red-chested swallow, Hirundo lucida
White-tailed swallow, Hirundo megaensis
white-bibbed swallow, Hirundo nigrita
Black-and-rufous swallow, Hirundo nigrorufa
Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica (range extends beyond Africa, this is also the European swallow)
Wire-tailed swallow, Hirundo smithii smithii
Genus Petrochelidon, cliff nesting swallows:
Forest swallow, Petrochelidon fuliginosa
Preuss's cliff swallow, Petrochelidon preussi
Red-throated cliff swallow, Petrochelidon rufigula
South African cliff swallow, Petrochelidon spilodera
Grey-rumped swallow, Pseudhirundo griseopygaThere are many other African birds in the swallow family Hirundinidae, but not called swallows, such as the Saw-wings (genus Psalidoprocne, also called rough-winged swallows), and numerous martins, such as the African river martin (Pseudochelidon eurystomina).Atticora
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
The black-and-rufous swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.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.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.Hirundo
The bird genus Hirundo is a group of passerines in the family Hirundinidae (swallows and martins). The genus name is Latin for a swallow. 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.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.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.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.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.