Hirundo dimidiata

Hirundo dimidiata, Sundev. OEfv. K. Vet.-Akad. Forh. 1850, p. 107 ; Hartl. Ibis, 1862, p. 144 ; Layard, B. S. Afr. p. 56 (1867) ; id. Ibis. 1869, p. 72 ; Gray, Hand-l. B. i. p. 71, no. 832 (1869) ; Sharpe, P. Z. S. 1870, p. 310 ; id. Cat. Afr. B. p. 46, no. 434 (1871) ; Gurney in Anderss. B. Dam. Ld. p. 52 (1872) ; Ayres, Ibis, 1878, p. 285, 1879, p. 291 ; Shelley, Ibis, 1882, p. 259 ; Sharpe, ed. Layard’s B. S. Afr. p. 366 (1882) ; Ayres, Ibis, 1884, p. 227 ; Sharpe, Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 148 (1885) ; Bocage, Jorn. Lisb. vii. p. 236.
Hirundo scapularis, Cass. Proc. Philad. Acad. pl. 12 (1850) ; id. Cat. Hirund. Mus. Philad. Acad. p. 2 (1853).
Hemicecrops dimidiata, Bp. Rivist. Contemp., Torino, 1857, p. 4.
Hemicecrops scapularis, Bp. t. c. p. 4.
Hirundo leucosoma (nee Sw.), Grill, Zool. Anteckn. p. 36 (1858).
H. supra cbalybeo-nigra, pileo dorsoque cocoloribns : abdomine albo : secundariis band extus albis. Hab. in Africa meridionali.
Adult. Above purplish blue ; quills brownish black, grey on the inner web, the innermost of the greater wing-coverts white, forming a white spot, which, however, is generally concealed by the scapularies ; occasionally in very old birds a small white spot also appears on the innermost secondaries : tail brownish black, without any spots, glossed on the upper surface with dark blue, with a faint greenish lustre ; entire under surface silky white, having in some specimens a certain woolly appearance, greyish in certain lights ; on each side of the upper part of the breast a patch of dark blue feathers : “bill and feet black ; iris dark brown” (Andersson). Total length 5.5 inches, wing 4.2, tail 2.6, tarsus 0.4.
Young. Not nearly so bright above, and more distinctly tinged with greenish the white spot on the greater wing-coverts cither absent altogether, or, when present, of a dull greyish colour and very little developed.
Hab. South Africa to Mashoona Land on the east and Benguela on the west.
THE Pearly-breasted Swallow is very closely allied to Hirundo teucosoma of Western Africa, but only shows a small white spot on the inner secondaries instead of the extended white patch on the wing of the latter species.
Mr. E. L. Layard has given the following account of the species :—"This Swallow is very rare in the neighbourhood of Cape Town, but. becomes more common on the mainland. It will be as well to treat the peninsula bounded by False and Table Bays as apart from the continent. The vast tract of land called the Cape Flats, together with Table Bay on the one hand and False Bay on the other, quite shut it off from the main¬land, so to speak ; and to aid in this isolation the mainland ends in an abrupt precipitous wall of mountains which are only to be passed in one or two places. Doubtless the Peninsula of Table Mountain was once an island, and ‘Table’ and ‘False’ Bays part of a strait between. As soon as the hills arc readied on the opposite side of Table Bay, this Swallow occurs ; and from Swellendam Mr. Cairneross writes :—‘ It is very common, and builds its nest generally under the thatch of an old mill or stable, which is a quieter refuge than a dwelling-house ; the egg is small and white ; and tradition says that it drives the Sparrow and House-Swallow (H. cucullata) from their nests, occupies them and breeds therein. For this reason it receives no mercy from the farmer, but the eggs and young are destroyed whenever met with.’ ”
Mr. Layard also found it abundant all along the route as far as Nel’s Poort ; there it was breeding under the rocks and under the eaves of Mr. Jackson’s barn. They construct a nest of mud very similar to that of H. cucullata, but without the elongated neck. The eggs, three or four in number, are pure white : axis 7"', diam. 5"'. He also found it breeding on the Berg River.
On the Orange River, Dr. Bradshaw says that this Swallow is an early arrival, nesting in every house. Victorin procured it at the Knysna, and it extends to the eastern districts of the Cape Colony, as Mr. Layard noticed it at Grahamstown, where it breeds. As before stated, it was first procured by Wahlberg in Natal, but we have not ourselves seen any specimens from that Colony.
In the Eastern Transvaal, Mr. Ayres has seen this Swallow at Rustenberg, where he procured specimens in May and July. He says that they are common in the winter time in that locality, keeping for the most part in pairs. He. also records one from the Marico district in August, and he states that on a gusty morning in March, 1882, a good many of these little Swallows appeared near Potchefstroom, and “flew wildly past in the gloaming, apparently in a great hurry.” The species was likewise met with by the late Mr. Jameson’s expedition on the Umvuli River. Mr. T. Ayres, who accompanied Mr. Jameson, says that they were evidently breeding at the time, as there was mud on the bills of the specimens shot. He writes :—“ They either remain here during the winter or are very early in their migration, as I saw them in the Matabele country in June, where no other Swallows were to be seen.”
Mr. Andersson gives the following note on the species :—
“Tolerably common in Damara Land, where they arrive about November ; but on the Okavango River I have seen them as early as the 1st of September. They do not stay any great length of time in Damara Land, in fact barely long enough to rear their young.
“In December 1863 a pair of these birds took up their abode in my dining-room at Otjimbinque, where they half completed a nest and then abandoned it ; another pair (at least I conjectured that they were not the same) after a time continued the labour ; but finally they also abandoned the nest whilst still incomplete ; the next season, however, it was finished, probably by the original projectors, and the parent birds safely brought up their young.”
It has also been found by Anchieta at Caconda in Benguela, and is said to remain there throughout the year.
The migrations of the present species are certainly difficult to understand ; and Mr. J. H. Gurney has given the following note on the specimen obtained by Mr. Ayres at Potehefstroom in March :—
“These were perhaps arriving in Transvaal for the southern winter (see Mr. Ayres's note, Ibis, 1879, p. 291). The specimens which I have received from Transvaal were obtained in May, July, August, and October, which scarcely accords with the experience of the late Mr. Andersson, who, in his Damara-Land notes (p. 52), speaks of having seen them on the Okavango river ‘as early as the 1st of September,’ and of their arrival in Damara Land ‘about November,’ and of their nesting in that country in December. This difference of habit as observed in S.E. and S.W. Africa at about the same latitude is, I think, remarkable.”
The descriptions are taken from specimens procured by Mr. Surtees in the Cape Colony and now in the British Museum, and the figures are drawn from examples in the Shelley 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 dimidiata
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Richard Bowdler
Page No: 
Common name: 
Pearly Breasted Swallow
Hill Swallow
Hirundo domicola
Vol. 1
Term name: 

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