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A photo of a Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithii)
Wire-tailed Swallow

Wire-tailed Swallow

Hirundo smithii

The wire-tailed swallow, Hirundo smithii, is a diminutive and agile passerine, a member of the swallow family. It is adorned with a lustrous blue plumage on its upperparts and a stark white on the underparts. A chestnut cap crowns its head, adding a touch of warmth to its appearance. The species is particularly noted for its elongated outermost tail feathers, reminiscent of fine wires trailing in flight. These distinctive "wires" are more pronounced in males than in females.

Identification Tips

Adult wire-tailed swallows measure approximately 18 cm in length. They can be identified by their bright blue upperparts, contrasting white underparts, and the chestnut cap. The tail wires are a key distinguishing feature, although they are absent in immature birds, which instead have a brown cap and a less vibrant plumage. The subspecies H. s. filifera, found in Asia, is larger and boasts a longer tail compared to the African H. s. smithii.

Habitat

These swallows favor open landscapes in proximity to water bodies and human settlements, where they can be observed gracefully skimming over the surface of the water.

Distribution

The wire-tailed swallow has a wide range that includes Africa and southern to southeastern Asia. The African subspecies, H. s. smithii, is resident across the continent, while the Asian subspecies, H. s. filifera, is found from India to Southeast Asia. In some regions, such as Pakistan and northern India, these birds migrate southward during the winter months.

Behaviour

Renowned for their swift and agile flight, wire-tailed swallows are often seen flying low over water surfaces. They are solitary and territorial when it comes to nesting, which is a departure from the more common colonial nesting habits of many swallows.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the wire-tailed swallow consist of a series of chirps and trills, a common characteristic of swallow communication.

Breeding

The species constructs neat half-bowl nests, meticulously lined with mud collected in their beaks. These nests are typically affixed to vertical surfaces near water, such as under cliff ledges, and increasingly on man-made structures like buildings and bridges. Clutch sizes vary from three to four eggs in Africa to up to five in Asia.

Similar Species

The wire-tailed swallow may be confused with other swallows, but its long tail wires and chestnut cap are distinctive features that aid in its identification.

Diet and Feeding

These birds are insectivorous, feeding predominantly on flies which they catch mid-flight. Their feeding grounds are usually close to water, where insect prey is abundant.

Conservation status

The wire-tailed swallow is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it currently faces no significant threats to its survival on a global scale.

Wire-tailed Swallow Sounds

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