Hirundo cucullata

Hirondelle a tete rousse du Cap de Bonne Esperanve, Daubent. Pl. Enl. 723 fig. 2.
Hirundo cucullata, Bodd. Tabl. Pl. Enl. p. 45 (1783, ex Daubent.) ; Gray, Gen. B. i. p. 58 (1845) ; id. Cat. Fissir. Brit. Mus. p. 23 (1848) ; Jard. Edinb. New Philos. Journ, n. ser. iii. p. 241 (1856) ; Gray, Hand-l. B. i. p. 69, no. 795 (1869) ; Heugl. Orn. N.O.-Afr. i. p. 162 (1869) ; Sharpe, P. Z. S. 1870, p. 318 ; id. Cat. Afr. B. p. 46 (1871) ; Gurney, in Anderss. B. Dam. Ld. p. 50 (1872) Ayres, Ibis, 1873, p. 281 ; Shelley, Ibis, 1875, p. 67 ; Ayres, Ibis, 1876, p. 424 ; Boeage, Orn. Angola, p. 183 (1881) ; Sharpe, in Oates’s Matabele Land, App. p. 311 (1881) ; Shelley, Ibis, 1882, p. 260 ; Salvin, Cat. Strickl. Coll. p. 149 (1882) ; Butler. Feilden, & Reid, Zool. 1882, p. 251 ; Helub & Von Pelz. Beitr. Orn. Sudafr. p. 58 (1882) ; Sharpe, ed. Layard’s B. S. Afr. pp. 370, 841 (1882) ; id. Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 152 (1885).
Hirundo capensis, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 1019 (1788, ex Daubent.) ; Bp. Consp, i. p. 339 (1850) ; Grill, Zool. Anteckn, p. 31 (1858) ; Layard, B. S. Afr. p. 54 (1867) ; Boeage, Jorn. Lisb. 1868, p. 47.
Cecropis capensis, Boie, Isis, 1826, p. 971, 1844, p. 174 ; Cab. Mus. Hein. Th. i. p. 17 (1850).
Hirundo rufula ?, Blyth, Cat. B. Mus. As. Soc. p. 198 (1849).
Cecropis cucullata, Cass. Cat. Hirund. Mus. Philad. Aead. p. 3 (1853).
Lillia capensis, Boie, Isis, 1858, p. 364.
H. uropygio rufo ; pilco rufo ; ala 5.4 ; subtus nigro anguste striolata.
Hab. in Africa meridionali.
Adult. Head intense sienna, the base of the feathers blue-black, showing occasionally a few markings of this colour on the crown ; upper part of the back and scapulars glossy purplish blue, marked with white in the extreme upper part of the neck, this appearance being caused by the whitish edging to the feathers when they arc disarranged ; wing-coverts like the back, the edge of the wing marked with white, especially on the primary-coverts, all of which are edged with white ; quills brownish black, lighter on the inner web, washed externally with dark greenish steel-blue ; lower part of the back pale sienna, much paler on the upper tail-coverts. where it is nearly white, the outermost upper tail-coverts being steel-blue ; tail brownish black glossed with dark greenish steel-blue, the middle leathers without any white spot on the inner web. the nest two on each side with a small white spot on the inner web, and so on all the last which has a very large white spot ; under surface of body fulvous white, the shaft of each feather strongly marked with brown, these shaft-stripes being very small on the throat and checks ; the sides of the body washed with pale sienna ; under tail-coverts white, with very distinct shaft-stripes : “bill black ; feet dark brown ; iris brown” (Shelley). Total length 7.8 inches, culmen 0.35, wing 5.1, tail 4.1, tarsus 0.6.
The adult female resembles the male in colour, but is a trifle smaller, and less richly coloured on the head and rump. Total length 6.5 inches, culmen 0.35, wing 4.85, tail 3.7, tarsus 0.6.
The females and young birds are paler underneath, and there is less of the fulvous tinge which is seen in the old males.
Young. Head dark brownish sienna, very pale on the sides of the neck, the base of the feathers con¬spicuously showing, so that a quantity of blue-black diamond-shaped marks appear on the head ; back and scapulars steel-blue, with the white edgings to the feathers showing conspicuously on the upper part of the back; wing-coverts blackish brown, edged at the tip with pale sienna ; quills blackish brown, glossed with deep greenish steel-blue, the secondaries tipped with pale sienna ; rump pale sienna, the white edging to the rump not very distinet, the shafts of all the feathers clearly defined ; the blue upper tail-coverts edged with sienna ; tail blackish brown, glossed above with deep greenish steel-blue, the outer feathers not very long, but having the white spot on the inner web very large, as in the adult, decreasing in size as it approaches the two centre feathers, which are unspotted ; under surface of the body white tinged with fulvous, deepest on the flanks and abdomen ; the shafts of the feathers very broad and plain, but thicker and not giving such a striped appearance in the adult ; bill dark brown ; legs flesh-colour.
Hab. South Africa, throughout the Cape Colony to Natal, the Transvaal, and Matabele Land. On the western side of the continent in Damara Land and Mossamedes.
THIS fine Swallow, as far as we yet know, is peculiar to the South-African region, and is easily distinguished from all the other rufous-rumped species of the genus Hirundo by its rufous head. The only other species which exhibits this character is H. puella, a much smaller bird with very broad streaks on the under surface. It appears to visit the Cape Colony from August till May, but where it goes to during the other months of the year has not been discovered.
Mr. E. L. Layard says that it arrives in the western part of the Cape Colony about the end of August or the beginning of September, but is somewhat irregular as regards its advent. Thus, in 1868 he observed the first at Uitkek, near Cape Town, on the 29th of August, but in the succeeding year the first bird was noticed by him at Green Point, near Cape Town, on the 19th of September, and Mr. Atmore saw it at George for the first time on the previous day. Victorin records it from the Knysna district as occurring from September to March, and he believes that it remains there till April. The late Dr. Bradshaw informed us that it was scarce along the Orange River, but plentiful further south in the Colony ; he found it nesting at Renhardt, a village seventy miles south of the Orange River.
The dislike entertained by the inhabitants of South Africa to the slaughter of this bird doubtless accounts for its rarity in collections at home, and the only specimen we have seen from the eastern districts of the Cape Colony is one in the British Museum, obtained by Capt. Trevelyan at Kingwilliamstown. Dr. Holub records it from the Orange Free State.
In Natal, according to Captain Shelley, it is very common, arriving, as we are in¬formed by Mr. Thomas Ayres, in October or November, and leaving again in March or April. We have received many specimens from Mr. T. L. Ayres, who procured them in the neighbourhood of Pinetown. Majors Butler and Feilden and Captain Reid state that near Newcastle it arrived rather later than H. albigularis, being seen on the 22nd of October, when it became very abundant and nested.
Mr. Thomas Ayres has also met with the species in the Transvaal, near Potchefstroom. and also in the Lydenburg district, and the late Mr. Frank Oates procured a specimen at Tati, in the Matabele country, in October. Dr. Holub states that it occurs through¬out Bechuana Land as far as the Zambesi ; and Mr. Ayres saw it in Mashoona Land in September, October, and December, but procured no specimens.
On the western side of the South-African region, Senhor Anchieta has forwarded it from Huilla and the Coroca River in Mossamedes, but did not meet with it during his sojourn on the Cunene Raver. The late C. J. Andersson, however, procured it in Damara Land, where, he says, it is not very common, usually arriving later than Hirundo dimidiata.
Lefebvre has stated that he met with the species in Abyssinia near Adowa ; but we agree with the late Baron von Heuglin that its actual occurrence is extremely doubtful.
Mr. Layard gives the following notes on the habits of this species:—“This is the household Swallow of the colony, breeding freely about the houses and in the country, often selecting the usual living-room of the family. In the city this familiarity is not permitted, on account of the dirt made by the birds ; but the Boer fixes up a board under the nest, to prevent the worst fouling, and considers that the rest is atoned for by the destruction of the myriads of flies, of which his little favourites rid him during the season of their stay. And only those who have sojourned in a Boer's house can estimate the plague of flies that infest it : they swarm on “bed and board ; ” they pollute the food and drink ; chairs, tables, walls, everything is blackened by them. No wonder, then that the Swallow is a welcome guest, and that to rob his nest is to get into the bad books of every member of the family.
“As you sit at meals, the graceful bird hawks over the table, and snatches the flies from the walls and ceiling ; nor is this the only service be renders, for, silting on the top of the window or door (always loft open for his accommodation), he pours out a short but lively song, which enlivens the dreary solitude and silence of the lone homostead.
“ The nest of this species is always attached to the underside of the place chosen, and is composed of little pellets of mud, like that of the English Swallow. In shape it re¬sembles a gourd with a long neck, out through longitudinally and glued up by the edges to the coiling. The eggs are four or five and pure while : axis, 10'" ; diam. 6'".
“The Rev. John Fry, of Rondebosch. once related to us a singular instance of the reasoning powers of this Swallow. The tube of a nest in his bath-room fell down, and was not replaced by the old birds, who had brought up their young, till within a few days of their flight, when one, more venturesome than his brothers and sisters, crept to the edge of the nest and fell over. After vainly trying to replace their dead offspring, the disconsolate parents, although their nesting was nearly over, repaired the broken tube to prevent a recurrence of the eatastrophe.”
“In Damara Land,” writes Mr. Andersson, “this Swallow courts the society and neighbourhood of man, and, where permitted, will unhesitatingly enter his dwellings and construct its nest and rear its young in the midst of the household duties of the family. The nest is built of clay, and at first resembles in shape that of Hirundo rustica ; but gradually the hollow bowl is narrowed into a tube of some extent. If the nest be destroyed at this stage, the poor bird at once sets about repairing the damage, but generally contents itself with rebuilding the dome, to which a narrow entrance is added.
I have known a pair of these Swallows reconstruct their nest three times in one season, the female depositing a nearly full complement of eggs on each occasion. At the Cape this species commences its incubation towards the latter end of September or early in October, but in Damara Land it is somewhat later. The eggs are four or five in number, of a pure white, dotted over with minute brown spots.”
The descriptions are taken from birds in the British Museum. The figures in the Plate, which represent a fully adult and a somewhat younger bird, are from birds in Captain Shelley’s collection.

A Monograph Of The Hirundinidae Or Family Of Swallows.
Sharpe, Richard Bowdler, and Claude Wilmott Wyatt. A Monograph of the Hirundinidae: Or Family of Swallows. Vol. 1. 1894.
Title in Book: 
Hirundo cucullata
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Richard Bowdler
Page No: 
Common name: 
Large Rufous Headed Swallow
Greater Striped Swallow
Cecropis cucullata
Vol. 1

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