Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)
Youghal, County Cork
[order] Passeriformes | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Hirundo daurica | [UK] Red-Rumped Swallow | [FR] Hirondelle rousseline | [DE] Rötelschwalbe | [ES] Golondrina daurica | [IT] Rondine rossiccia | [NL] Roodstuitzwaluw
spanwidth min.: 31 cm
spanwidth max.: 35 cm
size min.: 16 cm
size max.: 18 cm
Medium-sized hirundine similar in general form to Swallow but bulkier and with even stubbier bill, marginally shorter and slightly more rounded wings, and slightly shorter, blunter, and less wire-like tail-streamers. Plumage differs from Swallow in lack of dark chest-band and white spots in tail, and in presence of pale rufous rump area, black (not pale) under tail-coverts, and chestnut nape. Flight rather deliberate; usually slower and with more gliding than Swallow.
In west Palearctic, breeds in lower-middle latitudes in warm temperate, steppe, and especially Mediterranean zones, extending into oceanic climates, from sea-level in south-west Spain to over 1000 m in Cyprus, where sea-cliffs and caves are occupied as well as mountains. Compared with Swallow, has retained closer links with primitive breeding and hunting habitats and has not yet become so committed to dependence on human structures and land uses, except in certain regions. Much more dependent on reliable warm climate, and less adaptable to sudden or drastic change. Winters in dry African grasslands, or in cultivation and forest clearings.
Hirundo daurica is a widespread but somewhat patchily distributed summer visitor to southern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>100,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Although the species declined slightly in Greece and Albania during 1990-2000, these losses were compensated for by increases elsewhere-notably in Spain and Portugal-and it was stable overall.
Invertebrates. Takes airborne prey by aerial-pursuit, at up to 100 m or more. Hunting flight involves more steady gliding and less rapid wing-beats than Swallow.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 210,000-860,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but there is evidence of a population increase (Turner and Rose 1989), and so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Breeding in Spain: first clutches laid second half of April, last in September. In Greece and Bulgaria: laying from mid-May to end of July and in North Africa: laying from the end of April to July.The species brood 2-3 clutches. The nest is built on an overhanging rock ledge, inside a cave, under bridge or culvert, or in a ruined building, etc. The nest is a rounded bowl attached to overhanging, usually horizontal surface, with extended entrance tunnel also along the surface. Constructed of mud pellets reinforced with plant and grass stems; lined softer vegetation, wool, and feathers. Clutch size is 4-5 (2-7) with an incubation period of 13-16 days and a fledging period 22-27 days.
Migratory, but winter quarters still unconfirmed; presumed to lie in the savanna zone of northern Afrotropics, where birds inseparable in the field from resident African populations. Pronounced spring and autumn passage across Straits of Gibraltar. Migrants occur across the whole of North Africa though are rare in Tunisia and Libya; from this, assumed that Spanish and Moroccan birds migrate towards West Africa, those from south-east Europe and south-west Asia to north-east Africa. Autumn passage at Straits of Gibraltar mainly September, continuing into October. Evidently rather earlier from eastern breeding areas, since gone from Turkey by end of September and main Cyprus passage late August to mid-September; many fewer autumn observations than in spring, presumably due to more long-range overflying in autumn. Spring passage begins February, continuing into April.