Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Wire-tailed swallow

Binomial name: Hirundo smithii, William Elford Leach, 1818

The wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It has two subspecies: H. s. smithii, which occurs throughout Africa, and H. s. filifera, which is found in southern and southeastern Asia. It is mainly resident, but populations in Pakistan and northern India migrate further south in winter.

This bird is found in open country near water and human habitation. Wire-tailed swallows are fast flyers and they generally feed on insects, especially flies, while airborne. They are typically seen low over water, with which they are more closely associated than most swallows.

The neat half-bowl nests are lined with mud collected in the swallows' beaks. They are placed on vertical surfaces near water under cliff ledges or more commonly on man-made structures such as buildings and bridges.

The clutch is three to four eggs in Africa, up to five in Asia (Turner and Rose). These birds are solitary and territorial nesters, unlike many swallows, which tend to be colonial.

This species gets its name from the very long filamentous outermost tail feathers, which trail behind like two wires. Sexes manifest similar appearances, but the female has shorter "wires". Juveniles have a brown crown, back and tail. The Asian form, H. s. filifera, is larger and longer-tailed than the abundant African H. s. smithii.

Taxonomy and systematics

The wire-tailed swallow is a member of the genus Hirundo, a group of "barn swallows". It has two subspecies:

  • Hirundo smithii smithii was first described by William Elford Leach and K. D. Koenig in 1818. Known as the African wire-tailed swallow, it is found throughout Africa.
  • Hirundo smithii filifera was first described by Stephens in 1826. Also known as the Asian wire-tailed swallow, it is found in southern and southeastern Asia.

The genus name Hirundo is the Latin word for swallow. The species name smithii commemorates Christen Smith, a Norwegian botanist and geologist.

Description

The wire-tailed swallow is a small swallow, measuring 18 cm (7 in) in length. It has bright blue upperparts, bright white underparts and a chestnut cap. Immature birds lack tail wires, and have dull brown (rather than chestnut) caps.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Hirundinidae
Genus
Hirundo
Species
Hirundo smithii

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Wire-tailed swallow, Hirundo smithii in Thailand
  • Chanuman District, Amnat Charoen
  • Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Lo District, Chiang Mai
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Doi Saket District, Chiang Mai
  • Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
  • Khemarat District, Ubon Ratchathani
  • Khun Chae National Park
  • Kut Thing Non-hunting Area
  • Mae Ai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Mo District, Lampang
  • Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Lampang District, Lampang
  • Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area
  • Pa Sang District, Lamphun
  • Pha Daeng National Park
  • Pha Taem National Park
  • Salawin National Park
  • San Sai District, Chiang Mai

Range map of Hirundo smithii in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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