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Red-rumped Swallow - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies C. d. daurica
Photo © by Ali Benn
Beidaihe, China, May 2005
Cecropis daurica

Includes: West African Swallow
Hirundo daurica


16–17 cm (6¼-6¾ in)
Warm buff underparts that vary geographically from plain to quite strongly streaked (especially in northern China). Dark, glossy-blue upperparts, crown and back noticeably interrupted by chestnut nape and chestnut to orange-rufous rump. Upperwing and uppertail are blackish. Outer rectrices are elongated up to 3½ cm forming a deep fork. The blackish bill is short and flat with a wide gape. Eyes are dark brown. The short legs and the small, weak feet are blackish. Sexes are similar but the female has a shorter tail than the male. Juvenile is duller, browner above, paler below with less distinct streaking. Wing coverts tipped with buff.

Subspecies C. d. rufula
Photo © by J. H. Johns
Extremadura, Spain, May 2007


The black vent and undertail coverts are prominent in Europe but much reduced in birds from e.g., India.

Similar Species

Lacks the dark red face and breast band with sharp contrast to pale belly of Barn Swallow but instead has more black on the rear (vent is pale in Barn Swallow). Looks more thickset in flight which also gives impression of being slower. In area of overlap, Striated Swallow must also be considered. It differs in larger size, heavier streaking and lack of a clear collar. Rufous-bellied Swallow confined to the Malay Peninsula is similar but has redder underparts and lacks obvious streaking.


Portugal and Spain to Japan, Nepal, India and tropical Africa. At least northernmost populations are migratory, in winter ranges to Southern Africa and northern Australia.

Often occurs as vagrant north of breeding ranges, for example in Britain and Denmark.

C. d. rufula. Black on both undertail and uppertail coverts make the tail look like it has been glued on.
Photo © by Dennis Capewell
Lesvos, Greece, 24 May 2017


Previously included in genus Hirundo
Sri Lanka Swallow was formerly included in this species.


Subspecies C. d. erythropygia. note reduced black on undertail coverts cf. European birds
Photo © by Suru Nair
Kerala, India, 10 January 2013

Nine[1] or ten subspecies are recognised;

  • C. d. daurica: Unstreaked rump. Pale buff to whitish underparts with long, fairly dark streaks.
    Southern Siberia to Amur River, northern Mongolia, western China and Transbaikalia
  • C. d. japonica: Indistinct streaking on rump, heavily streaked underparts and interrupted collar.
    Korea, eastern and central China and Japan; migrant to coastal northern Australia
  • C. d. nipalensis: Pale rufous underparts with moderate-width streaks; rump two-toned with rufous higher up and creamy-buff lower down.
    Central Himalayas to south-western China (Yunnan), northern India and northern Myanmar
  • C. d. erythropygia: Buffy-white underparts with very fine streaks, rump dark chestnut.
    Northern India (base of Himalayas to Nilgiri)
  • C. d. rufula: Whitish almost unstreaked underparts, whitish rump and complete collar.
    Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, Iran, Afghanistan and north-western India
  • C. d. domicella: White or pinkish-buff underparts with little streaking.
    Senegambia to southern Sudan and extreme north-western Uganda
  • C. d. kumboensis: Intermediate between C. d. emini and C. d. melanocrissus.
    Sierra Leone (Birwa Plateau) and Cameroon (Bamenda highlands)
  • C. d. emini: Pale rufous underparts without streaks.
    Southeastern South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo south through Uganda and Kenya to Malawi and northern Zambia
  • C. d. melanocrissus: Buffy below with small streaks confined to breast.
    Highlands of Ethiopia

C. d. domicella from West Africa is sometimes split as West African Swallow,


Plains, grassland, rocky outcrops.


Nest. If you see such a structure, please do not linger
Photo © by Niels J. Larsen
Near Castro Verde, Alentejo, Portugal, 7 June 2013


They forage alone, in pairs or in small groups. Flight consists of steady gliding and rapid wingbeats. They catch flying insects by aerial pursuit, sometimes up to 100 meters or more. They also pick up insects while perched in vegetation or even on the ground.


Monogamous. Breeds in pairs or in loose groups of less than 50 pairs sometimes clustered into colonies or dispersed. Male performs aerial display circling while calling around the female. Both adults build the nest. The flask-shaped mud nest has a tunnel entrance. Nest is lined with soft grass and feathers. It is placed on rocky ledges, buildings, under bridges and caves. Clutch size is 2-7 eggs with African birds average smaller clutches. Eggs hatch asynchronously. Older, stronger nestlings get more food and have an increased chance of survival.


Primarily insects such as flies, beetles, bugs, termites, grasshoppers and wasps. Prey items vary locally depending on the season.


Migratory in northern parts of its range, but mostly resident in the south. They form flocks of varying size after breeding with other swallow species and swifts.


Contact call is a House-sparrow-like chirp tchreet and a nasal tzueeee. Alarm call is a sharp kiir. Song is a twittering warble resembles that of Barn Swallow but with lower-pitched twittering, harsher, slower, shorter and more nasal. Listen to a Red-rumped Swallow sound clip


Click images to see larger version


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BF Member observations
  3. Peterson, RT, G Mountfort and PAD Hollom. 1993. Collins Field Guide – Birds of Britain and Europe, 5th Revised edition. London: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0002199001
  4. Birdforum Id-forum thread discussing red-rumped swallow
  5. Birdforum Id-forum thread discussing red-rumped swallow
  6. Turner, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/57753 on 25 January 2019).

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