Hirundo smithii (Wire-tailed swallow) 

Draadstertswael [Afrikaans]; iNkonjane (generic term for swallows) [Zulu]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Nyenganyenga (generic name for swallow or martin) [Shona]; Mbawulwana, Nyenga (generic term for swallow) [Tsonga]; Roodkruinzwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle longs brins [French]; Rotkappenschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-cauda-de-arame [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes  > Family: Hirundinidae

Hirundo smithii (Wire-tailed swallow)  Hirundo smithii (Wire-tailed swallow) 
Wire-tailed swallow, South Africa. [photo Neil Gray ] Wire-tailed swallow, South Africa. [photo Gerhard Theron ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, absent from the lowland forest of West Africa and the DRC. In southern Africa it is locally common in the extreme north of Namibia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Distribution of Wire-tailed 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 thought be resident throughout its southern African range.


Hawks aerial insects often in flocks with swallows, such as Grey-rumped (Pseudhirundo griseopyga) and Lesser striped (Hirundo abyssinica) swallows. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, solitary nester, with the pair bond lasting for the whole breeding season and probably for life.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes in about a week, consisting of a flat open cup built of mud pellets and lined with stems, grass and feathers. It is typically placed in an artificial site, such as near the roof of a veranda, on a wooden cross beam, inside a water tower, under a bridge or even on a boat. The same site is used repeatedly over multiple seasons; before laying the eggs the original structure is repaired
Hirundo smithii (Wire-tailed swallow)  Hirundo smithii (Wire-tailed swallow) 
Wire-tailed swallow at its nest, South Africa. [photo Neil Gray ] Wire-tailed swallow pair in courtship display, Tanzania. [photo Martin Goodey ]
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from August-December and February-April.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for 14-19 days. In one study the eggs where incubated for 43-66% of the day.
  • The chicks are brooded by the female for the first few days of their lives after which the male sometimes helps out. They are fed regularly by both sexes, leaving the nest after 15-24 days. The fledglings still roost in the nest for at least 3-4 weeks, possibly until the next clutch is laid.


Not threatened, in fact its range has benefited from the introduction 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. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.


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