Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

South African Swallow (Petrochelidon spilodera)


French: Hirondelle sud-africaine German: Klippenschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina sudafricana
Other common names: South African Cliff Swallow

Hirundo spilodera


, 1850,

Valsch River, Free State, South Africa


Sometimes considered conspecific with P. rufigula. Monotypic.


Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with scattered records from Lesotho; migrates N to SE Congo and W DRCongo.

Descriptive notes

14 cm; 16–26 g. Has pale rufous forehead and lores, dark brown crown, black head side and hindneck; upperparts deep blue-black, whitish streaks on mantle, rump pale... read more


No clear song; calls are a warbling chatter call, a threat call which is a harsher version of the... read more


Open grassland, lightly wooded savanna and semi-arid karoo.

Food and feeding

Diet includes beetles Coleoptera (especially Scarabaeidae and Curculionidae), dipterans (especially Muscidae and Drosophilidae), bugs (... read more


Sept–Apr; two or three broods reported for small proportion of pairs. Colonies of a few tens to several hundreds of pairs, up to c.... read more


Migratory. Highly gregarious after breeding. Present on breeding grounds in S Aug–Apr, a few... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Generally common in suitable habitat in main breeding range in South Africa; less common and more irregular in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and... read more

Recommended citation

Turner, A. (2020). South African Swallow (Petrochelidon spilodera). 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 21 February 2020).