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Wire-tailed Swallow - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies filifera
Photo © by James Williams
Hampi, Karnataka, Southern India, February 2005
Hirundo smithii


14cm 14–21 cm (5½-8¼ in)

  • Bright blue upperparts
  • Flight feathers are darker
  • White underparts
  • Chestnut crown
  • Blue mask through the eye
  • White spots on the tail
  • Outer tail feather are very long filaments
  • At least in Africa, the dark band across the vent area is important for identification

Sexes are similar, but the female has shorter "wires"
Juveniles have a brown crown, back and tail.

Subspecies smithii; notice the dark band across the underparts just behind the legs
Photo © by swiss7
Parfuri, Kruger National Park, South Africa


Two distinct populartions Africa (smithii) and Asia (filifera):
Western Africa: Mauritania, Senegambia, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola
Eastern Africa: Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi
Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland
Asia: Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Eastern and Western Himalayas, Bangladesh, Bhutan
Southeast Asia: Indochina, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand



Juvenile : subspecies filifera
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, India, June-2017

There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • H. s. smithii:
  • Widespread Africa south of the Sahara
  • H. s. filifera:


Open country near water and human habitation, Marula savannah, open woodland, bushveld, rice fields, marshland



The diet consists mainly of flying insects.


The 3 or four eggs are laid in a half-bowl nest lined with mud. It is fixed to the vertical surfaces of bridges and buildings or under cliff ledges.

Adult displaying fully-grown wires
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dist. Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India, June-2013


Listen in an external program

Recording by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, India, June-2017
A mixed group of Juvies and adult calling. They were hawking insects over a canal and calling. Background calls by Red-wattled Lapwing and Rose-ringed Parakeet are heard.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Sinclair et al. 2002. Birds of Southern Africa. Princeton Field Guides, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. ISBN 0-691-09682-1
  4. NatureTrek
  5. Wikipedia
  6. BF Member observations

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