Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)


French: Hirondelle à ailes hérissées German: Graukehlschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina aserrada norteña

Hirundo serripennis


, 1838,

Charleston, South Carolina, USA


Usually considered conspecific with S. ridgwayi (which see). Formerly treated as conspecific with S. ruficollis (which see). Sometimes treated as monotypic: races intergrade and borders between them (and degree of overlap) uncertain, also N–S cline in coloration, and there is a tendency for paler forms in SW USA and NW Mexico, also size increases N to S and wing longer towards NW; fulvipennis may not be separable. Race burleighi sometimes included in S. ridgwayi. Proposed race aphracta (W Great Basin region of USA), supposedly dark above and with greyer throat, appears undiagnosable. Four subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. s. serripennis (Audubon, 1838) – SE Alaska, and from S Canada (C British Columbia, C Alberta, C Saskatchewan, S Manitoba, W & S Ontario E to SW New Brunswick and SW Nova Scotia) S in USA to C California, N Nevada, New Mexico, C Texas and SW Florida; winters mostly SW Mexico and Florida S to C Panama.
  • S. s. psammochroa Griscom, 1929 – S California, S Nevada, SW Utah, SW Arizona, S New Mexico and S Texas S to S & NE Mexico (S through N coastal plains and possibly interior highlands to SW Oaxaca and Tamaulipas), possibly also S along coast to El Salvador; winters C Mexico S to Panama.
  • S. s. fulvipennis (P. L. Sclater, 1860) – C & S Mexico (lowlands and middle elevations from C Veracruz, E Oaxaca and E Chiapas) S to Costa Rica.
  • S. s. burleighi A. R. Phillips, 1986 – locally in interior Belize#R and Guatemala (S Yucatán Peninsula).
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–14·5 cm; 10·3–18·3 g. Male nominate race is grey-brown above, rump with paler feather edges; wings and tail dark grey-brown,... read more


    Territorial call is a series of fast “brrrt” notes; other calls include an alarm call,... read more


    Rocky gorges or open areas with exposed banks of gravel, clay or sand, such as road cuttings,... read more

    Food and feeding

    In samples taken throughout North America, diet 33% flies (Diptera), 31% Hymenoptera (mainly ants), 15% bugs (Hemiptera), 15% beetles (... read more


    Egg-laying mid May to mid Jun in NE, early Jun to early Jul in NW; from Mar/Apr in Middle America, but until at least late Jun in SW Mexico... read more


    N populations are medium-distance migrants; resident in S. Forms flocks after breeding, often of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Population size estimated at 15,000,000 birds, with more than one million counted on passage through Veracruz (E Mexico) in Oct 1999... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A., de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis). 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 20 February 2020).