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  Swallows -birds


From the family -Hirundinidae

There is this group of slim birds doing acrobatic in the air, most times a few or flock of them. They could be Swifts, Swallows, martins or even Tree-swift. In this page, I am dealing with Swallows! These are small birds with dark glossy-blue backs, red-throats and pale under part. Then, sharply pointed tails, angled winged and some times even with forked tails. Some come with streamers at the end of the tail. These birds comes under the family Hirundininae, which they share with the Martins. The Martins belong to same grouping with the variations that the Martins have squarer tails. There should be 75 different types of Swallows in the whole world.

Swallow spending most of their time on the wings, usually move around swiftly in circles or acrobatically within a small confine of air space. Single or in flocks picking up the tiny insects [ bees, houseflies. hoverflies, blue bottles, and even moths] flying and sharing the same air space. The flight may be fast, reaching speed of 50-65 km/hr. and involve a rapid succession of turns and banks when chasing fast moving preys. Then most times leisurely with a lower speed of 30-40km/hr, flying in circles, switching over to bursts of flapping mixed with gliding.  Their slender, streamlined body shaped coupled with long pointed wings are designed for efficient flight which is almost half the efforts needed when compared to other passerines of the same size. They too, when the situation is right pick the prey off branches or on the ground. Each bird could consume up to 6,000 bugs a day to stay alive.

Swallows have short legs with their feet adapted for perching rather than walking, But Swallows could walk and even run when needed. Swallows are small birds, like all other birds, they have their repertoire of calls. Like those of fledglings begging for food, alarm with predators nearby and mating calls etc. Then there is a long continuous soft murmuring call, attracting mate or presumably checking on the condition of the birds.

With lots of swallows in the air, it is not surprising there are birds of different species, hovering at different altitude from the ground depending on the type of prey that each species are targeting.

When they are seen often in the air and perching on electric wire, where do the bird nest? Many species build their nest from mud on vertical walls.

Collared Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Dusky Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne concolor
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata
Rufous-bellied Swallow Cecropis badia

There are 12 species of Swallows and Martin seen in South-East Asia. I have not make any effort in locating the Martins and so on this page there only 4 species of Swallows that I collected. The 2 are exceptionally common while the other pair needed some efforts to locate


Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica

Size & diagnostic markings:-  15 Cm.

This bird is 15cm long. If the other tails are to be considered, that portion is another 5 cm. Glossy blue upper part, Chestnut forehead and throat and most significant is the black breast band. The under part of the bird is white.

The streamers would be seen when the bird is in breeding plumage.

 Distribution :-  

This bird is native in this region. North Africa, through the Middle East, around the belt south of Himalayas, to China, Taiwan, Japan and down to Philippines, Sundas and the Polynesian Islands. A very common bird in malaysia now.

Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird but could be found up to to the sub-montane area. Prefers places near water ways and with green vegetations.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

Anywhere I went. From lowlands to the mountain top, I am happy they are around. I have traveled to countries where the rural roads that I passed is bereaved of bird's life. Here is Malaysia, these tiny birds normally nothing to shout about, projects life and hope. So that's is a privilege scene that we get in Malaysia.

Yes, they are always on the electric cables lining up the roads. It could be Barn Swallows or Pacific. So often both species of Swallows are there together.

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos

Pictures of the Barn Swallows


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 My personal jottings on the Barn Swallows:-

Yes, mentioned above, these tiny birds are welcoming signs. Leaving urbanized area and getting into the country, electric wires are seen when there are no forested patches and in areas of open fields. On these wires the Swallows seen here are mainly Barn Swallows. Very few Pacific Swallows seen among them or by themselves. They are birds of open areas.

They are not always that colorful or tidy. Some pictures would show them with broken parts. Then  there are birds in various stages of maturity, then the rufous patch below the throat not brilliant at all.


Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica


Size & diagnostic markings:-

14 Cm. The bird is marginally smaller than the Barn Swallow at 14 cm. The Pacific and the Barn Swallow have  identical looks. Almost the same  too. so the only way to tell them apart is the presence of the dark breast band.

And of course in other time the streamers at the end of the tail.

 Distribution :-  

Compared with the Barn Swallows, this bird has a smaller confine. They are found in Southern India, and down to Sri Langka and the Andaman Sea. Then from South Japan, Taiwan and down to the Polynesian islands.

 Again in Malaysia, this is a fairly common bird throughout the country

Habitats & preferences:-

The bird prefers coastal areas with vegetation. This lowland birds is also seen up in the Montane areas as well. They  are perch in high and open spots but unlike Barn Swallow, they do choose spots near to the ground.


In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

Like the Barn Swallows, the Pacific is also seen in the same places from lowland to highlands. The birds may be staying in the same location but seldom flock together. Near the coastal region, their presence gets very obvious. They could be in pair or in small family of less than 10 birds. So there is no need to ponder which area the bird could be spotted.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Pictures of the Pacific Swallows


Pacific Swallow  # 1

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 My personal jottings on the Pacific Swallows :-

When these tiny birds are spotted, in built up areas e.g. residential township, the Swallows seen here are likely to be Pacific Swallows and with almost no Barn Swallows. Beside resorting to the technique of looking out for the diagnostic marking of the dark breast band for ID, one can be certain that these urban Swallows are of one species.

One interesting observation. Not by co-incidence, comparing the perches the 2 species of birds are seen with. The Barn Swallows normally on cables high up while the Pacific Swallows were seen in a wide varsities of resting places.


Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica


Size & diagnostic markings:-  

17 Cm. This is a larger swallow at 17 cm and 3 cm could be added if the steamers are seen. Most obvious would be the Orange head side when compared to the Barn Swallow. The under part is white with dark streaks.Other than the differences in color the bird is very close to the Striated Swallow in profile and shape.

 Distribution :-  

The bird breeds in Africa and found more in the region near the Arctic. Then in Middle East, Indian sub-continent, northern China, Korea and Japan. It so close in looks to the other 2 Swallows, so difficult to detect their presence if any. So could be considered as hardly seen -as they do not go around in obvious flock.

Habitats & preferences:-

Again a bird of the open country in the lowland but as a bird from the cold, not surprising that it strays into the montane region

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

So far I have seen this bird in the rice field in Tanjong Karang. I have been on a constant look-out for the birds. With no clue of their migratory habits, if there are, so far little success in meeting for more pictures. This statement itself shows that the bird is not common.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-


Pictures of the Red-rumped Swallows

Red-rumped Swallow   # 1

Red-rumped Swallow   # 2

Red-rumped Swallow   # 3

 My personal jottings on the Red-rumped Swallows :-

 Very few pictures I am afraid and that couple of sightings I made are not conclusive for me to verify as to where these birds could be seen. I keep my old record and monitor it for elaboration.


Striated Swallow Hirundo striolata badia


Size & diagnostic markings:-

19 Cm. This is a large Swallow at 19 cm.  The upper part in dark color and orange brown on the head side. The bird has an uniform deep rufous-chestnut under part and under wings. The tail has a streamer at times.

 Distribution :-  

The bird is resident in North-west India. Small area in North-east Bangladesh, and south-west China then Taiwan, Sundas and the Philippines.

In Malaysia this is a rare to common bird seen in the wilderness only.

Habitats & preferences:-

The habitats for the bird is rather specific. Usually in hilly areas only and with vast open areas opposite the cliffs, more often rocky cliffs. In the couple of places I know these cliff walls overlooking a deep valley as well.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

Common on the road to Frasers hills near Perdik Dam, road to Bukit TInggi and the end of the Old Gombak Road at Genting Sempah. All these places with noticeably cliffs


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Pictures of the Striated Swallows


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 My personal jottings on the Striated Swallows :-

Somehow I feel that this bird is fairly large. What I like most is that it looks graceful when it glides with its forked tail opened in flight. The birds also make calls during flight.

They do gather in colony well spread over a small area but hardly in cluster. Very often too the bird seen in pairs.


Though a bird most seen anywhere, these birds are ignored as they are small and not colorful. I am no exception but I learned to like them as they are the birds that would always be there even when bird life is low. The sad point is that the birds seen are either Barn or Pacific. Even though I am keen to collect bird pictures, soon I am having enough of stock. On the contrary, I am still waiting for more chances of meeting up with the Red-rumped Swallows. A species we do not get to see often.

I am still looking for opportunity with the Striated Swallow as their flight is graceful and I still need more pictures of that. Unfortunately, sightings of this species is also seasonal.