Psalidoprocne holomelaena (Black saw-wing) 

Swartsaagvlerkswael [Afrikaans]; Inkonjane (generic term for swallow), Unomalahlana [Xhosa]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Zwarte kamzwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle du Ruwenzori [French]; Sundevalls sägeflügelschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-preta [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

Psalidoprocne holomelaena (Black saw-wing)  Psalidoprocne holomelaena (Black saw-wing) 

Black saw-wing. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Black saw-wing. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across the DRC, Cameroon, northern Angola and Zambia, with separate populations in Ethiopia, Kenya to Tanzania and southern Africa. Here it is common in Swaziland, the southern Mozambique coast and the eastern escarpment and lowlands of South Africa, from Limpopo Province south to KwaZulu-Natal and down the coast to Cape Town. It generally favours fringes of montane, coastal and riparian forests, especially near watercourses or marshes. It also occupies edges of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, valley bushveld and fynbos.

Distribution of Black saw-wing 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

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa around August-September and leaving around April-May. The location of its non-breeding grounds hasn't been confirmed, and there are still birds present from May-August, but it is quite scarce in this period.


It eats aerial arthropods, doing most of its foraging close to the ground in clearings between trees, flying slowly while hawking prey.


  • Monogamous, usually solitary nester, although sometimes semi-colonial.
  • Both sexes excavate the nest, which is a upwardly inclined burrow consisting of a long tunnel ending in a chamber, where a saucer-shaped nest of lichen and grass is constructed. It is usually dug into a riverbank, sandbank, erosion gulley, roof of Aardvark Orycteropus afer burrow, trench or road cutting, with the entrance often concealed by vegetation.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-March, peaking around December.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated for 14-15 days, although in East Africa it can be as long as 18 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after at least 25 days.


Not threatened.


  • 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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