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Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Found in the open country, the swallow has a graceful, swooping flight.

Common name: swallow

Scientific name: Hirundo rustica

Family: Hirundinidae


Head: dark red throat and forehead (more of a rusty-buff colour in juveniles)

Wings: long wings

Body: cream underside and a long, forked tail. Autumn juveniles have shorter tail streamers

Not to be confused with

Swifts, house martins and sand martins are other summer visitors which can be easily confused with swallows.

Where to spot

Open country, usually near water and houses.  Also gathers in restless flocks in autumn on telephone wires and with martins over marshes and reedbeds. The swallow is a summer visitor from April and one of the latest summer visitors to return to Africa. Most depart by late September.


They drink by skimming low over lakes or rivers and scooping up water with their open beaks.


It builds its nest on ledges, beams and joists in sheds and outbuildings. Swallows often nested in chimneys before the advent of central heating.


  • One swallow was recorded as having flown 12,000 kilometres from Johannesburg to Russia in just 34 days
  • Call is a cheerful 'vit vit' in flight and a rapid twittering song

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