(1152) Hirundo rustica rustica.
The Common Swallow.
Hirundo rustica Linn.. Syst. Nat., 10th ed. i, p. 191 (1758) (Sweden); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 277.
Vernacular names. Ababil (Hind.); Talai-illatha-kuruvi, Adai-kalan-kuruvi, Tam-padi (Tam.); Wanna-kovela (Tel.); Paras pitta (Mharis and Gonds); Pyan-klwa (Burm.); Wehelihiniya (Cing.).
Description. .Forehead deep chestnut; whole upper plumage and wing-coverts glossy purple-blue; wing-quills and tail black edged with glossy green, all the tail-feathers except the central pair with an oblique patch of rufous-white or white on the inner webs; lores black; chin and throat chestnut; a broad band of glossy blue-black across the breast, some of the feathers in the centre edged with rufous and the chestnut of the throat often encroaching on the pectoral band; remainder of lower surface, axillaries and under wing-coverts creamy pale rufous, the under tail-coverts darker and more rufous. In a few specimens the longest under tail-coverts are sub-tipped with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Length up to about 200 mm., according to the length of the outer tail-feathers; wing 110 to 130 mm. ; tail 65 to 121 mm.; tarsus 10 to 13 mm.; culmen about 8 to 9 mm.
Young birds are browner and less glossy above; the pectoral band is brown and the throat, chin and forehead much paler chestnut.
Distribution. Breeding in Europe, North-West Africa, West Siberia to the Yenesei, Asia Minor, Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim, Tibet and the Assam Hills. Breeding birds from Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Gilgit, Ladakh and Northern Tibet seem all to be more near to the next race, having very white underparts and very broken pectoral bands. Kashmir birds I retain with rustica with considerable doubt. The pectoral bands¬ are much broken up with rufous, though the abdomen is as dark as it is in most European species; on the other hand, the under tail-coverts are nearly always more white than the abdomen instead of more rufous as it is in the typical form. In Winter the Swallow extends to South Africa, every part of India, Ceylon, the whole of Burma and even to Borneo and the Philippines.
Nidification. The Common Swallow breeds in great numbers throughout Kashmir, Kuman and Garhwal and in fewer numbers East to Sikkim between 4,000 and 8,000 feet but principally between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. As in Europe so in India, they build nests of pellets of mud, well lined with feathers and placed on any convenient rafter, ledge or projection in verandahs or inside the buildings themselves. The nest is shallow saucer-shape and sometimes when built on a flat surface there is no mud used for the bottom of the nest, though retaining walls are built round the lining. The eggs number four or five, rarely six and are white with spots and specks of red dish-brown, deep purple-brown, or, less often, pinky-brown, with a few secondary marks of lavender and grey. In shape they are long ovals, sometimes blunt, sometimes pointed. One hundred Indian-taken eggs average 19.8 X 13.7 mm. as against 20.2 x 13.9 mm. for fifty European eggs : maxima 22.8 X 14.0 and 22.1 X 14.2 mm. ; minima 17.9 X 12.1 mm.
The birds breed from early April to late July and certainly generally have two broods and occasionally three.
Habits. The Common Swallow is a migratory species in India as elsewhere and in the Winter is found throughout the Plains down to Ceylon, though the next form seems to be the most common in that island and everywhere specimens are to be seen equally referable to one or the other. The great Southern migratior starts in September and birds reach Ceylon in October, but the Northern migration takes place throughout the Empire in April or the last few days of March. Young birds fledged in June and July seem to come to India in July and August and, on the other hand, the last-fledged birds of the previous year do not return to the Himalayas until May or June, so that odd birds are seen in the Indian plains in almost every month of the year. Before migration they assemble in immense flocks, collecting on the reeds or on the telegraph wires according as they are available. Their soft, twittering little notes and pleasant attempts at song, as well as their graceful fluent flight, are too well known to need Description.