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.


Species List

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

Species Links
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

    Species Account
    The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) is the most widespread species of swallow in the world.
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

    Cornell Species Account
    Glistening cobalt blue above and tawny below, Barn Swallows dart gracefully over fields, barnyards, and open water in search of flying insect prey.
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

    RSPB Species Account
    Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers.
  • Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species account…
  • Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

    Species Account
    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.
  • Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

    Species Account
    Species InformationBreeding and ecologyWelcome swallows are small fast-flying birds found in open country particularly around lakes, coasts, riverbeds and ponds. Their flight is circular and darting in style, and they may be seen singly, in pairs or in flocks. Flocks often perch en masse, lined up on fences or power lines. They were named ‘welcome swallows’ because they appeared in southern Australia as a herald of spring. Due to their elegant shape and flight, and their preference for nesting around buildings, swallows are noticed and appreciated more than most other small birds.
  • Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

    Species Account
    The Welcome Swallow is metallic blue-black above, light grey below on the breast and belly, and rust on the forehead, throat and upper breast. It has a long forked tail, with a row of white spots on the individual feathers. The outer tail feathers (streamers) are slightly shorter in the female. Young Welcome Swallows are buffy white, instead of rusty, on the forehead and throat, and have shorter tail streamer.
  • Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

    Species Account
    The welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 88

Useful Reading
  • The Barn Swallow

    | By Angela Turner | Poyser | 2006 | Hardback | 256 pages, 16 pages of colour photos | ISBN: 9780713665581 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Purple Martin

    | By Robin R Doughty & Rob Fergus | McDonald & Woodward Publishing | 2016 | Paperback | 186 pages, 28 colour photos | ISBN: 9781935778325 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Sand Martin Trust

    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.

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content