Swallow (Hirundinidae)

Appearance
There are 9 species of Swallows regularly found in Kenya. Included in this scientific family are Martins and Saw-wings. These are graceful birds with long wings and most species also having a long, forked tail. Bills are short and flattened, having wide gapes. Feet are generally small and weak. Sexes are similar in colour and markings.

Habits
Swallows are generally monogamous (having only one partner). Swallows build their nests out of pellets of mud, either a half-cup shape on the side of a wall or completely enclosed with a tunnel entrance, placed beneath an overhang. A few nest inside tree cavities or a hole in the ground. An average of four eggs are laid, usually white or speckled and 14 days is the typical incubation period, usually by the female. Chicks are bald and blind when they hatch, but fledge at around three weeks, although they remain dependent on the parents for food for a while afterwards.

Diet
Swallows all take their food on the wing, often feeding in pairs or groups. They hawk insects in the air, using wide gapes that act like scoops.

Resident
Three Swallows are paleartic migrants, the best known being the Barn Swallow, who is known as the one who 'brings Spring' to northern parts, nesting in the same place, year after year. Swallows can be seen in various parts of Kenya, wherever there is a plentiful supply of airborne insects - except bees and wasps, which are generally avoided.

Extra Swallow Facts
Swallows and Swifts (Apodidae) are often confused, but do not share the same scientific family. Swallows flight is generally much slower and more graceful, on broader wings. Swallows tails are longer than Swifts. Swallows, despite having weak legs are able to rest on perches during the day, while Swifts do not.

Photographs
Photographed at Kenya's Nairobi National Park & Olare Orok Conservancy.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow