HIRUNDO ALBIGULARIS, Strickl.
Hirundo rufifrons (nec Vieill.), Less. Traite d’Orn, p. 268 (1831) ; Grill. Zool. Anteckn. p. 35 (1858).
Hirundo albigularis, Strickl. Contr. Orn. 1849, p. 17, pl. 15 ; Cass. Cat. Hirund. Mus. Philad. Acad. p. 2 (1853) ; Sharpe, P. Z. S. 1870, p. 308 ; id. Cat. Afr. B. p. 46 (1871) ; Ayres, Ibis, 1873, p. 281 ; Fischer & Reichenow, J. f. O. 1879. p. 344 ; Bocage, Orn. Angola, p. 185 (1881) ; Butler, Feilden, & Reid, Zool. 1882, p. 251 ; Salvin, Cat. Strickl. Coll. p. 150 (1882) ; Sharpe, ed Bayard's B. S. Afr. p. 364 (1882) ; id. Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 146 (1885) ; Seebohm, Ibis. 1887, p. 342.
Hirundo albigula, Bp. Consp, i. p. 338 (1850) ; Gurney, Ibis, 1865, p. 264 ; Layard, B. S. Afr. p. 55 (1867) ; Gray, Hand-l. B. i. p. 68. no. 787 (1869) ; Ayres, Ibis, 1876, p. 424, 1878, p. 285, 1880, p. 260.
Hirundo ambigua, Bocage, Orn. Angola, p. 186 (1880).
H. uropygio pilcoque chalybeo-nigris, dorso coucoloribus : fronte castanea : gula alba : torque praepectorali chalybeo-nigro.
Hab. in Africa meridionali.
Adult male. Above glossy steel-blue ; quills blackish, with a blue gloss on the upper surface ; the inner¬most greater coverts marked on the interior web with a greyish-white spot, which is generally hidden by the scapulars ; tail blue-black, the two ecutre leathers unspotted, but all the others marked on the inner web with a large patch of white ; forehead deep chestnut ; lores black ; sides of face and ear-coverts steel-blue ; throat, checks, and sides of the neck white ; below the throat a broad band of glossy steel-blue feathers, broad at the sides and narrow in the centre of the breast ; the rest of the under surface of the body greyish ash-colour, the under tail-coverts whiter at the ends, with occasionally a tiny subterminal black spot ; under wing-coverts and axillaries like the breast, the latter whiter on their margins : bill black ; feel dark brown, Total length 6.5 inches, culmen 0.15, wing 5.2, tail 3.05, tarsus 0.45.
The adult female is similar in plumage to the male, and has almost exactly the same dimensions.
The young bird is unknown to us. The collar on the lore neck is very often so much broken up in the centre as to become almost interrupted, and then the species approaches very closely to H. athiapica As a rule, the males have a broader and more period praepectora collar but even in some of the most beautiful specimens the collar is as imperfect as in most of the females. The fine steel-blue gloss which characterizes the full-plumaged birds suffers much deterioration during the breeding-season, and the gloss becomes of a dull purplish shade.
The scries in the British Museum measure as follows, and the dimensions may be compared with those of H. oethiapica in the same collection:-
a. Hirundo albigularis.
Total length. Wing. Tail. Tarsus.
a. Ad. Cap Colony (E. L. Layard). 6.4 5 2.85 0.5
b. female ad. Knysna, Jan. 24 (C. J. Andersson). 5.7 5 2.6 0.45
c. male ad. Knysna, Jan. 24 (C. J. Andersson). 6 5.05 2.7 0.45
d. Ad. Natal. 6.4 5.15 2.9 0.45
e. male ad. Natal (T. Ayres). 5.8 4.9 2.6 0.45
f. male ad. Transvaal (T. Ayres). 6 5.2 3 0.45
g, h. male ad. Potchefstroom, Aug. (T. Ayres) 6.2-6.5 5.05-5.2 2.65-3.05 0.45
i. female ad. Potchefstroom, Aug. (T. Ayres) 6.0-6.2 4.9-5.2 2.55-2.95 0.45
B. H. oethiopica.
Total length. Wing. Tail. Tarsus.
Female ad. Barakit, Tigre (W. T. Blanford). 5.2 4.35 2.2 0.4
Male ad. Kokai, Bogos (W. Jesse). 5.1 4.2 2.3 0.4
Female ad. Bejook, Bogos (W. Jesse). 5.6 4.4 2.5 0.4
Ad. Bogos (Esler). 5.7 4.25 2.4 0.4
Ad. Abyssinia. 5.2 4.2 2.3 0.35
Male ad. Khartoum. 5.8 4.15 2.7 0.4
Ad. R. Gambia. 5.3 4.15 2.4 0.35
Juv. Abcokuta. 5 4 1.8 0.4
Male ad. Shonga, R. Niger (H. O. Forbes) 5.5 4.1 2.4 0.4
Ad. Lokoja, R. Niger (H. O. Forbes). 5.2 4.25 2.4 0.4
Hab. South Africa generally, to Angola on the west coast and to the Zanzibar district in Eastern Africa.
This is a South-African bird, and, although it is a common and well-known species, there still remains a great want of knowledge as to its migrations. It was not exactly described till 1840, though many authors believe that Levaillant’s plate of the ‘Hirondelle a front roux' was intended for this species. On this plate Vieillot founded his name of Hirundo rufifrons, a title frequently adopted for the species ; but the figure is so inaccurate and is so much more like that of the Common Chimney-Swallow, that it is impossible to admit it as a representation of H. albigularis.
As will be seen from the notes quoted below, the present species occurs in South Africa in August, breeds in September, October, and November, and leaves for the north along with the European Chimney-Swallow (H. rustica) ; but where it winters is at present unknown. Drs. Fischer and Reichenow record a specimen from Malindi, in East Africa, in June, and as they mention H. oethiopica at the same time and from the same place, we may take it for granted that the ranges of both species unite on the east coast of Africa, and that it is here that H. albigularis probably winters.
Mr. E. L. Layard has given the following note on the species in the Cape Colony:—
“If any of our Cape Swallows could he mistaken for the European species, this would in all probability be the deceiver. In fact, for a long time we were deceived by it, until one bright sunny morning, while watching the flight of some of these lovely aerial creatures, it struck us that the blue of the back and white of the breast looked brighter than in the old-country bird. For some time they confined their course to the narrow river, on the bridge of which we stood, but at last one strayed for an instant over the bank ; a well-directed shot laid him on the green sward, and we instantly recognized the supposed ‘Hirondelle a front roux’ of Le Vaillant. They were breeding beneath the bridge, but we were unable at the time to get at the nests, which we have since visited, and found to resemble those of the European bird in shape and structure. Le Vaillant says he only found this species in the rainy season (our winter). In this he is most undoubtedly mistaken, so far as the Cape Peninsula is concerned. No other Swallow than C. fuligula remains during this time, whatever they may do in the more inland districts ; but from all we can gather from our correspondents, we have no reason to think that even there H. albigularis is to be found in the winter.
“ My son found the species breeding at Grootevadersbosch, near Swellendam, and together we procured its nest at the Berg river in the middle of September. The nest was a half-cup attached to a beam in a stable, and was composed of mud and lined with hay and feathers. The eggs are very thin, white (pink when containing the yolk), and spotted, chiefly at the obtuse end, in the shape of a ring, with minute dots of green, brown, and yellow, with here and there a larger spot. In shape they are sometimes much pointed, at other times they are very round ; axis 11", diam. 7".”
Both Victorin and Andersson procured this Swallow in the Knysna, the former from August to October, the latter in January. In Natal, writes Mr. Ayres to Mr. J H. Gurney, “these pretty Swallows arc not nearly so common as the Summer-Swallow (H. rustica) ; they appear to arrive at the same time as the latter birds, and to leave with them, and the two species are frequently to be seen hunting in company ; their flight is, however, I think, more rapid. The tawny appearance of the breasts of the specimens sent is, I believe, merely caused by their having constantly perched on a horizontal iron bar which supported the chimney of a house, and was passed through the roof.”
In the “Notes” from Natal, published by Colonels Butler and Feilden and Captain Savile Reid, we find an account of the present species :—
“Appeared at Newcastle early in September in numbers, and noted all the way to the coast. Numerous at Richmond Road in December. The nest is open, of a half-cup shape, built of mud, warmly lined with grass and a large quantity of feathers, and is placed on the under surface of rocks, usually over water. Eggs four, measuring in. by 0.55 in., white, with small blotches and spots of reddish brown, most numerous towards the obtuse end. Nests were taken by Butler and Reid in October and November ; one found by Butler was on a cliff about one hundred yards from the water, on a sloping hill-side. When the nest is destroyed by accident or removed, the birds usually commence a fresh one on the same foundation within a few days. Reid took one on the 15th October, and on the 21st found a new nest ready for eggs in the same place.”
In the Transvaal Mr. Ayres states that it breeds sparsely. It is the first of the migratory Swallows to appear at Potchefstroom. “Two specimens of this species were shot on the 19th of August. By the 4th of September the Swallows were plentiful along the river, and by 18th of September they were pairing ; a month later they were more dispersed and not seen so plentiful. They feed principally over the marshes, but often rest upon the ant-heaps in the open country.” The same gentleman found them fairly plentiful on his visit to the Lydenburg district.
The late Mr. Andersson has the following note on Hirundo rustica :—“ This well-known species is pretty common in Damara Land and Great Namaqua Land during the rainy season, and I have found it very numerous at Walvisch Bay and in other localities near the coast. In uncivilized parts of Africa these Swallows affix their nests to some projection of a rock or trunk of a tree, or occupy cavities in rocks or banks.” On this point Mr. Seebohm observes :—
“Andersson, in his ‘Birds of Damara Land,’ remarks of H. rustica that it breeds in that country ; but there can be little deubt that the Swallow which he supposed to be our species was the White-throated Swallow (H. albigularis), which he does not mention, and which he probably mistook for the female of our bird. His further remark that in consequence of the scarcity of houses it breeds in rocks and trees, adds still more doubt to the accuracy of his observations. I have seen the Common Swallow breeding under overhanging cliffs in the Dobrudscha, but I never heard of its having been found nesting in a tree.”
In favour of Mr. Seebohm’s theory we may mention that the Knysna specimens in the British Museum were originally labelled by Mr. Andersson “H. rustica', ” but it is evident that he found out his mistake, for in his own handwriting the name “H. rufi-frons” has been substituted. At the time of his writing the book on the Birds of Damara Land he must have been perfectly aware of the differences between these two Swallows, and we have never seen a specimen of H. albigularis from Damara Land. At present, therefore, we are not inclined to accept Mr. Seebohm’s correction of Mr. Andersson’s supposed mistake, though we admit that his account of the nesting of H. rustica in Damara Land is very similar to that of H. albigularis in Natal, as recorded by Colonel Butler.
In the Lisbon Museum is a single specimen of this species, from Angola, procured by Mr. Furtado d’Antas. We have already alluded to its occurrence at Malindi, in East Africa.
Our descriptions are taken from the scries in the British Museum, and the figure in the Plate from a bird in Captain Shelley’s collection.