Balcony Birding: Wire-Tailed Swallow


“The swallow is come! The swallow is come! O, fair are the seasons, and light Are the days that she brings, With her dusky wings, And her bosom snowy white!” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wire – Tailed Swallow | Hirundo Smithii

The best click (shared above) was a gift on the #GlobalBirdWeekend this 17-18 October 2020. This wire-tailed swallow decided to be kind to me!

Swallows belong to the family Hirundininae which also includes martins. Swallows and swifts are unrelated yet superficially very similar in appearance. There are around 83 species of swallows worldwide. They are found around the world on all continents except Antarctica.

It was in the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, New Delhi that I first saw them. That time I had no clue about them and the first thing I did was google to find out their name. The wire-like extension in their tail feathers, called tail streamers, lends them the name and uniqueness.

One day I spotted small birds flying around swiftly & much further from my balcony; their wire tail gave the away. I was ecstatic to see them! I have waited for many months to be able to photograph them somewhat in good light and size. They are barely 6″ (and 20 grams in weight) and look like a small spec in the entire photo.

I hoped to catch their bright blue upperparts, bright white underparts and the chestnut colored cap. Mind you, only in 2 or 3 occasions I was lucky to do so.

The male have a long filamentous outermost tail feathers, the female have shorter ones and it is absent in juveniles who also have a dull brown cap.

Unlike other swallow species this one prefers living near water. Also unlike many other swallow species, which nest in colonies, the Wire-Tailed Swallows are solitary and territorial nesters. Found across the Indian sub-continent, it is non migratory; though ones in North India may move down warmer south during winters.

It takes a pair of swallows up to 1,200 journeys to build a nest. Only the female lines the nest. Swallows spend much time in the air, capturing insects; they are among the most agile of passerine birds

I have noticed the Red-Rumped Swallows too flying swiftly along with them. Though still waiting to be able to photograph them well enough. Fortunately, I have seen plenty of them in the hills, at my friend’s home (in village Bagar Malla, Pangot). Here’s a photo of them.

Red Rumped Swallows @ Village Bagar Malla, Uttarakhand

If they are not taking a spin in the sky, you will find them perched on wires, striking a model like pose one moment and non-stop movements in another. These wires around are a boon and bane for my bird photography. In this case, definitely a boon!

Known as the “bird of freedom” because it cannot endure captivity

Now some gathered trivia:

“….Much folklore surrounds the swallow. To see the first swallow of the year is regarded as a good omen. In Russia songs were written to celebrate their return after the long, cold winter….”

“….It is said that while Jesus was crucified, swallows approached and removed the thorns from the crown. Popular belief says that they relieved his pain…..”

“….another legend tells us that Jesus, still a child (barely five years old), was playing in the bed of a stream one day. He made a soft mass of mud and formed twelve swallows out of it…..”

“…..This legend says that the first bird that removed a thorn from Christ’s forehead later flew great distances with it. He traveled for 3,600 kilometers without losing the thorn, from Calvary to the Sierra de Guadarrama. Finally, the exhausted swallow arrived at the top of a hill, where it died and was covered by the earth of the pasture. That’s the reason that this place in Navacerrada (Madrid) was christened El Cerro de la Golondrina (Hill of the Swallow)…..”

“….. This bird is associated with love, loyalty and peace. Swallows are said to appear in you life when you have lost faith or there are many changes happening in your life…”

“…… The swallow tattoo was a symbol used historically by sailors to show off their sailing experience. According to one legend, a sailor tattooed with one swallow had travelled over 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km); a sailor with two swallows had travelled 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km) …..”

Do watch out for the next post on another species from my #BalconyBirdingList

Posts shared so far on:
1. Rosy Starlings
2. Alexandrine Parakeet
3. Rose-Ringed Parakeet

4. Plum Headed Parakeet
5. Indian Spot-Billed Duck
6. Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon
7. Black-Winged Stilt
8. Indian Peafowl
9. Indian Purple Sunbird
10. Green Bee-Eater
11. Indian Silverbill
12. Black-Headed Ibis
13. Red-Naped Ibis
14. Glossy Ibis
15. Little Swift
16. Red-Wattled Lapwing
17. Wire-Tailed Swallow



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The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy!
Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe

This published post is being shared as part of:

#WordlessWednesday now hosted by Natasha (currently alt Wed)
and other fabulous people around the globe — Sue ,  Betty ,  Zina 

38 responses »

  1. Pingback: Adieu Atumun Flowers: #WordlessWednesday #wednesdayWisdom

  2. I find these beauties gliding around our condo too, and then there are swifts too. The others day we went to Basai wetlands and spotted so many of these regal beauties.

    Another wonderful post dear Monika. Thanks for joining me on n#WW. I’m going live in sometime today. See you around?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your recent visit to my blog and your kind comments. Your pictures of the wire-tailed swallow are fantastic! This is my first time seeing this type of swallow. In my part of Montana we have mainly tree swallows. They are very energetic, acrobatic little ones!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Suzana….. around 85/90 species!! Most look so similar too 😂

      I had looked up too, Barn Swallow or H.Rustica (like you shared too) are found around Romania.

      hahahha the rocket one is the most clear too….. I captured it when it was zipping past! I am glad you enjoyed them….. they spread so much cheer too!

      Happy WW & week too Suzana!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful photos! I have seen several species of swallows but never a wire tailed swallow. I hope to see them someday. Here in my part of the world, the swallows have just left for their journey south to warmer climates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s wonderful Laurie. I have seen red- rumped and barn other than the wired tail. Yes, its time for swallows to move to warmer places. The wired are residents in India, the ones in the Northern side of the country may move to the southern side in winters.


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