Hirundo dimidiata (Pearl-breasted swallow) 

Pêrelborsswael [Afrikaans]; iNkonjane (generic term for swallows) [Zulu]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Lefokotsane (generic term for swallow) [South Sotho]; Nyenganyenga (generic name for swallow or martin) [Shona]; Mbawulwana, Nyenga (generic term for swallow) [Tsonga]; Pêolwane, Phêtla (generic terms for swifts, martins and swallows) [Tswana]; Parelborstzwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle à gorge perlée [French]; Perlbrustschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-de-peito-pérola [Portuguese]

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Hirundo dimidiata (Pearl-breasted swallow) 

Pearl-breasted swallow, De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Hirundo dimidiata (Pearl-breasted swallow) Hirundo dimidiata (Pearl-breasted swallow) 

Pearl-breasted swallow, Koeberg Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Pearl-breasted swallow, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Angola, Zambia, southern DRC and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is sparse to locally common, with concentrated populations in northern Botswana, central Namibia, Zimbabwe, Limpopo Province, Gauteng, the Eastern and the Western Cape. In the northern areas of its range it favours broad-leaved and Brachystegia woodland; in southern South Africa it prefers valley bushveld, lowland fynbos and farmland.

Distribution of Pearl-breasted swallow in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Little known, but it is a summer breeding visitor to the Western and Eastern Cape, arriving in August and leaving in April.


It mainly eats insects, supplemented occasionally with grass seeds. It forages low on the ground (often below the canopy in woodland), hawking flying insects such as termite alates. It also catches prey flushed by fires, cars or horses.


  • The nest is built mainly by the male, who works on it every morning for about 3-4 weeks. It basically consists of a cup built of mud or clay pellets, reinforced and lined with dry grass and hair. Placement varies with different regions: in Zimbabwe it is commonly positioned on rock faces, bridges, buildings and in Brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea) or Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) burrows. In northern South Africa it is typically placed in an Aardvark or African porcupine (Hystrix africaaustralis) burrows and in southern SA buildings are used more then any other site.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-March, peaking around August-October.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 16-18 days, regularly leaving the nest with her mate to forage.
  • The chicks are fed by both adults and brooded by the female for short periods for the first week of their lives. They eventually leave the nest at about 18-23 days old but are still fed by the adults for about 20 more days. They remain in their parents territory until the second clutch of the breeding season is laid (sometimes 3 clutches are produced in one season!)


Not threatened, in fact its numbers have increased due to the abundance of man-made nest sites.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 




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