Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Black Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne pristoptera)


French: Hirondelle hérissée German: Erzschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina negra

Hirundo (Chelidon) pristoptera


, 1840,

#R, Simen Province, Ethiopia


Taxonomy complex, and some races overlap in range with apparently little interbreeding, leading to individual races or combination of races being treated as full species; although molecular evidence does not rule out more than one species#R, such overlap could reflect migrants entering ranges of other subspecies#R; further work required. Other proposed races include kosteri (Benguela, in W Angola), percivali (Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) and bamingui (R Bamingui, in Central African Republic), but these are not clearly distinguishable. Twelve subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. petiti Sharpe & Bouvier, 1876 – SE & E Nigeria, S Cameroon, Gabon and extreme NW Angola (Cabinda).
  • P. p. chalybea Reichenow, 1892 – N & C Cameroon E to Central African Republic, NW South Sudan and N & C DRCongo.
  • P. p. pristoptera (Rüppell, 1840) – W highlands of N Ethiopia and N Eritrea.
  • P. p. blanfordi Blundell & Lovat, 1899 – highlands of WC Ethiopia.
  • P. p. antinorii Salvadori, 1884 – C & S Ethiopia.
  • P. p. oleaginea Neumann, 1904 – SW Ethiopia and E South Sudan.
  • P. p. mangbettorum Chapin, 1923 – S South Sudan S to NE DRCongo.
  • P. p. ruwenzori Chapin, 1932 – E DRCongo.
  • P. p. reichenowi Neumann, 1904 – Angola, S DRCongo and Zambia.
  • P. p. massaica Neumann, 1904 – Kenya and N & C Tanzania.
  • P. p. orientalis Reichenow, 1889 – S Tanzania and E Zambia S to E Zimbabwe and C Mozambique.
  • P. p. holomelas (Sundevall, 1850) – S Zimbabwe and S Mozambique S to E & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    13 cm; 12 g. Dark body and forked tail distinctive. Nominate race is black with purple-blue sheen; wings blackish-brown; tail blackish-brown with green gloss, strongly forked... read more


    Not very vocal; calls include high-pitched “see-see”, described as “chirr-chirr-... read more


    Savanna, woodland, bush, forest, river valleys, villages and plantations, also montane grassland... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes beetles (Coleoptera), flies (Diptera), and hymenopterans such as ants and ichneumonids. Forages alone, in pairs or in small... read more


    Usually in local wet season, i.e. Apr–Jun and Oct–Nov in Cameroon, Apr–Jul in Gabon, Feb–Sept in DRCongo, Feb... read more


    Not well understood. Mainly resident in Gabon, Sudan, Ethiopia and E Africa, making some local post... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common to locally abundant, especially in highlands; not common in lower Congo Basin, W Sudan, E African plains, S Zambia and C Zimbabwe.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A. (2020). Black Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne pristoptera). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).