Hirundinidae – Swallows & Martins

Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena ©Ian Montgomery Website

The swallows and martins are a group of passerine birds in the family Hirundinidae which are characterised by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the Barn Swallow.

This family comprises two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (the river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows and martins). Within the Hirundininae, 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. The family contains around 88 species in 19 genera.

The swallows have a cosmopolitan distribution across the world and breed on all the continents except Antarctica. It is believed that this family originated in Africa as hole-nesters; Africa still has the greatest diversity of species. 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. A few species of swallow and martin are threatened with extinction by human activities, although other species have benefited from human changes to the environment and live around humans.

According to most authorities there are 88 species in this family; they are:

African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina
White-eyed River Martin Pseudochelidon sirintarae

Square-tailed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne nitens
Mountain Saw-wing Psalidoprocne fuliginosa
White-headed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne albiceps
Black Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera
Fanti Saw-wing Psalidoprocne obscura 

Grey-rumped Swallow Pseudhirundo griseopyga

White-backed Swallow Cheramoeca leucosterna

Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica
Brazza’s Martin Phedina brazzae

Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
Grey-throated Martin Riparia chinensis
Congo Martin Riparia congica
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Pale Martin Riparia diluta
Banded Martin Riparia cincta

Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea
Tumbes Swallow Tachycineta stolzmanni
White-winged Swallow Tachycineta albiventer
White-rumped Swallow Tachycineta leucorrhoa
Chilean Swallow Tachycineta meyeni
Golden Swallow Tachycineta euchrysea
Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis

Purple Martin Progne subis
Cuban Martin Progne cryptoleuca
Caribbean Martin Progne dominicensis
Sinaloa Martin Progne sinaloae
Grey-breasted Martin Progne chalybea
Galapagos Martin Progne modesta
Peruvian Martin Progne murphyi
Southern Martin Progne elegans
Brown-chested Martin Progne tapera

Blue-and-white Swallow Notiochelidon cyanoleuca
Brown-bellied Swallow Notiochelidon murina
Pale-footed Swallow Notiochelidon flavipes
Black-capped Swallow Notiochelidon pileata

Andean Swallow Haplochelidon andecola

White-banded Swallow Atticora fasciata
Black-collared Swallow Atticora melanoleuca

White-thighed Swallow Neochelidon tibialis

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis

Tawny-headed Swallow Alopochelidon fucata

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-chested Swallow Hirundo lucida
Angola Swallow Hirundo angolensis
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Hill Swallow Hirundo domicola
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena
White-throated Swallow Hirundo albigularis
Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea
White-bibbed Swallow Hirundo nigrita
Pied-winged Swallow Hirundo leucosoma
White-tailed Swallow Hirundo megaensis
Black-and-rufous Swallow Hirundo nigrorufa
Pearl-breasted Swallow Hirundo dimidiata

Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne obsoleta
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Dusky Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne concolor

Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Nepal House Martin Delichon nipalense

Greater Striped Swallow Cecropis cucullata
Lesser Striped Swallow Cecropis abyssinica
Red-breasted Swallow Cecropis semirufa
Mosque Swallow Cecropis senegalensis
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Sri Lanka Swallow Cecropis hyperythra
West African Swallow Cecropis domicella
Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata
Rufous-bellied Swallow Cecropis badia

Red-throated Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon rufigula
Preuss’s Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon preussi
Red Sea Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon perdita
South African Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon spilodera
Forest Swallow Petrochelidon fuliginosa
Streak-throated Swallow Petrochelidon fluvicola
Fairy Martin Petrochelidon ariel
Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans
American Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
Chestnut-collared Swallow Petrochelidon rufocollaris

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 88

Useful Reading
Organisations
  • Sand Martin Trust

    Website
    If you are interested in birds but don`t know much about Sand Martins and so think you will not be able to help them, we are pleased to tell you that indeed you will.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • PurpleMartins

    Mailing List
    This is a list for those who are interested in the Beautiful and Beneficial Purple Martins - Attracting and protecting them - general information about Martins, Migration Dates, etc.
  • Swifts, Swallows & Martins Worldwide

    Mailing List
    Aimed at specialist and amateur alike, you may record observations, describe interesting behavioral features, ask questions, advise readers about publications, and submit photographs and texts via Files or Photos. Articles and messages in languages other than English may be posted, provided a summary in English is also attached.
Other Links
  • My Purple Martin BLOG

    Website
    Purple Martins are the most intriguing of birds. I often say that they are the most common of unknown birds. What do I mean by that? Well, by that I mean that most people I meet have NO idea what a Purple Martin is…

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