Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)


Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea)


French: Hirondelle bleue German: Stahlschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina azul
Other common names: Montane Blue Swallow

Hirundo atrocaerulea


, 1850,

Natal, South Africa


Has been separated in Natalornis, on basis of sexual dimorphism, distinctive plumage (without rufous, no white in tail), nest structure and egg coloration; within present genus, however, these features (apart from nest structure) are variable, suggesting that separate genus is not warranted. DNA data#R indicate sister relationship with H. nigrorufa, despite striking morphological differences. N population, with plumage washed violet, sometimes separated as race lynesi, but differences insignificant. Monotypic.


SE DRCongo, S Tanzania, Malawi, NE Zambia, E Zimbabwe and adjacent W Mozambique, E South Africa (S Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal) and W Swaziland; migrates N to NE DRCongo, S Uganda and extreme W Kenya#R.

Descriptive notes

18–25 cm; 13 g. Distinctive. Has glossy steel-blue plumage, sometimes with violet wash; outer tail feathers form very long, slender streamers; sometimes a few white... read more


Monotonous, plaintive song; calls include a quiet “choop-choop”, a high-pitched alarm... read more


Open montane grassland; also seen in woodland edges and swamps. At 1500–2200 m in Zimbabwe,... read more

Food and feeding

Diet includes flies (Diptera). Feeds alone or in pairs, sometimes in groups of 4–5 individuals, occasionally up to 10; usually just... read more


Feb in DRCongo, Nov–Dec and Feb in Tanzania, Oct–Jan in Malawi, Nov–Jan in Zambia, Dec in Mozambique, Oct–Mar in... read more


Migratory; post-breeding flocks of 40 or more birds recorded. Absent from breeding grounds mainly... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Appendices I & II of CMS (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals). Population estimated at c. 2000 pairs in 1998 and c. 3000... read more

Recommended citation

Turner, A. (2020). Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea). 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 24 February 2020).