The pied-winged swallow was described by the English ornithologist William Swainson in 1837 who introduced its current binomial name Hirundo leucosoma. The specific epithet combines the Ancient Greek words leukos, "white" and sōma, sōmatos, "body". The species is monotypic. Evolutionarily, the pied-winged swallow occupies a basal position within the clade of Hirundo swallows and is most closely related to the pearl-breasted swallow (Hirundo dimidiata).
The pied-winged swallow is about 12 cm (4.7 in) long with glossy steel-blue wings and head. Most of the underside of the bird is white, with additional white patches found on special wing feathers. The tail is also steel-blue, but has green reflections. Females and juveniles typically have shorter tails. Juveniles are also typified by a browner head and generally duller colour overall. The outer tail feathers have white inner edges and an oval white spot. The eyes are brown, while beak and feet are both black. It is the only West African swallow with a wing patch. Wingspans average 99 cm (39 in).
The pied-winged's call is a short "chut", but in general they are not especially vocal birds. They use the "chut" as a contact call, but usually vocalize only when perched.
This swallow is found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. It lives in a variety of environments included wooded savannas, forest clearings and rivers. It is not shy and will live around humans and in towns. Buildings and other human habitations make for common nesting sites, and have potentially boosted the pied-winged's population.
Pied-wings are partial migrants, travelling as far as Ghana and Northern Nigeria during the rainy season. During non-breeding periods they can be found in Senegal and Togo. They have been recorded as vagrants in western Cameroon.
Breeding takes place beginning in April or May and runs through June. Shallow mud nests are built by both sexes and are lined with grass or any available fibres. Nest construction takes as long as a month, although nests are often reused year after year. Nests are sometimes located near those of the red-breasted swallow. Common locations include on buildings or under rafters, although one extreme nest was recorded as being located 4.6 m (15 ft) down a well. Clutches typically contain 4 pure white eggs, although clutches of 3 eggs are not uncommon. They measure 19.7 mm × 13.1 mm (0.78 in × 0.52 in) and weigh 1.77 g (0.062 oz).
Pied-wingeds are fast and agile fliers, making use of many banks and turns during flight. Much feeding is done in flight, which consists of various insects caught from the air. It is unknown whether certain species or types of insects are preferred in the diet. Feeding is usually done alone or in pairs over grassland, although they will sometimes congregate in larger groups or with other species of swallow. Pied-wingeds living near humans will often feed over lawns.
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.Lake Sonfon
Lake Sonfon, also known as Lake Confon, is a fresh water mountain lake in Diang, Sierra Leone of religious and cultural significance. The nearest towns are Kabala that is 60 km to the north and Benugu that is 40 km to the south. It is located in the hills of the Sula Mountains at an altitude of 549 m (1,801 ft) above sea level. Sonfon drains from its southern end, which forms the start of the Pampana River, and is fed by seven small streams with its water level varying considerably during the year. The Lake has a maximum depth of 8 m (26 ft) and with an area of 8.2 km2 (3.2 sq mi) is Sierra Leone's largest inland lake.Gold deposits are found in the rocks of Lake Sonfon and in alluvial deposits in the area. Only the alluvial deposits are being worked employing 15,000 miners around the Lake. This mining is causing the level of water in the lake to decrease.Although the Sonfon is not well surveyed 105 species of birds have been identified at the lake including the iris glossy-starling, the Dybowski's twinspot, the splendid sunbird, the red-faced pytilia and the pied-winged swallow. Animals that live at the lake include endangered pygmy hippopotamus, black duikers and Maxwell's duikers. In the dry season the lake is completely covered with vegetation. The hill environment around the lake consist of forests, wooded savanah, grassland and farmbush. The Lake is a key conservation area and a proposed protected area but as of 2011 there is no protection in place.Lake Sonfon is considered sacred in traditional belief with local people carrying out cultural ceremonies along its shore. Offerings, including rice and food, are floated into the lake on calabashes. In traditional belief the lake is symbolically intermittent, as well as being intermittent in terms of the amount of water in the dry season and a powerful Djinn lives in the lake.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
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.