African AnimalsAfrican birding

Wire-tailed Swallow

It has distinctive, two long, thin outer tail feathers that appear likes wires from which it gets its common name. It is found in Africa and Asia, boasting a striking blue upperpart, and a chestnut cap, which elegantly contrasts its bright white underpart. They are often found in open country near water and human habitation. Commonly seen in singles, pairs, or sometimes in small flocks.

Read further to know more about the Wire-tailed Swallow.

What is a Wire-Tailed Swallow?

The Wire-tailed Swallow is a tiny passerine bird from the swallow family. They are agile and fast flyers, generally feeding on insects, mostly flies, when in flight. These swallows are somewhat similar in other aerial insectivores’ appearance and habits, like the swifts and the martins.

It has two subspecies, the Hirundo smithii filifera, which is commonly found in southern and southeastern Asia, and the more abundant Hirundo smithii, which are found throughout Africa. Both species’ genus name ‘Hirundo’ is a Latin word meaning ‘swallow.’ Meanwhile, the scientific name ‘smithii’ is a commemoration to Chetien Smith, a Norwegian professor, botanist, and geologist, who was part of the expedition that discovered the specie.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Hirundinidae

Genus: Hirundo

Species: H. smithii

Wire-Tailed Swallow Physical Description

Wire-tailed swallows typically from 5.6 inches or 14 centimeters to 7.1 inches or 18 centimeters in length. It has a striking dark blue upper plumage, accentuated by a reddish-crown cap, with a bright white underpart. It possesses a blue bar, which starts from the beak masking the eye and going down to its neck and back.

As their common name suggests, they have two long, thin, outer tail feathers, which appear like wires. Females and males are similar in appearance, though the former has shorter wires. Their juveniles or immature birds are distinguished through their brown cap, back, and tail.

Where can they be spotted?

Wire-tailed swallows are commonly found in wetlands, grasslands, open scrublands, cultivated regions, or areas near the water. They have two distinct populations, the African and the Asian race.

The African population is spread throughout Africa:

In Eastern Africa, they can be found in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.

In Southern Africa, wire-tailed swallows also thrive in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal.

In Western Africa, they are present in countries like Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, etc.

The Asian race can be found in:

In Asia and Central Asia, they can be found in Nepal, China, Tibet, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan.

You can spot them in Southeast Asia in Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indochina, and Sri Lanka.

These birds are non-migratory and usually, stay in their country of origin. However, there are populations in India and Pakistan, that migrate south during the winter season.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Wire-tailed Swallows

Wire-tailed swallows’ diet tends to center on inspects, especially flies, which they catch while airborne. Other insects that they feed on are termites, ants, beetles, butterflies, and moths. They are often seen in chasing their insect prey in fast aerial pursuits.

The Wire-tailed swallows are monogamous and only finds a new partner in the event that their partner dies. The lay 2-4 eggs in Africa, while there are reports that some birds lay up to 5 eggs in Asia. Egg-laying occurs throughout the year but peaks from February to April and August December.

They build half-bowl nests for their eggs using mud they collect through their breaks. Their nests are usually situated on vertical surfaces, such as on ledges or on human-made structures, like bridges, buildings, veranda, or wooden platforms. They incubate their eggs 14-19 days, at around 43 to 66% of each day.

While other swallow species tend to nest in colonies, the wire-tailed swallows are more solitary and are a territorial type of nesters.

The Wire-tailed Swallows are classified as Least Concern as their ranges in increasing. They are not threatened, and their population has immensely benefited from the construction of artificial nesting sites.

WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

ZIMBABWE

Victoria FallsHwange

SOUTH AFRICA

Kruger National Park

ZAMBIA

Lower Nambezi National ParkMosi-oa-Tunya National Park

BOTSWANA

Chobe National Park

Okavango Swamp

NAMIBIA

Caprivi National Park

Wiretailed Swallow
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