(1157) Hirundo smithii filifera.
The Indian Wise-tailed Swallow.
Hirundo Filifera Stephens, Gen. Zool., xiii, p. 78 (1826). Hirundo smithii. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 280.
Vernacular names. Leishra (Hind.).
Description. Forehead, crown and nape chestnut; lores and a patch under the eye black. Whole upper plumage, wings and tail glossy steel-blue ; the concealed portions of the wing- and tail-quills black and the latter with a white spot on the inner web of all but the central pair of feathers; lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or dark brown ; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Wing 113 to 120 mm.; tail 70 to 132 mm.; tarsus 10 to 11 mm.; culmen about 8 mm. Ticehurst gives the, wing-measurements of H. smithii as 109 to 114 mm. only, but the British Museum series run up to 123, larger than any, specimen of Indian H. filifera.
Young birds have the crown a paler duller chestnut and the upper parts less glossy.
Nestlings have the crown brown and the upper plumage brown, generally showing a gloss on some parts; lower parts, tinged with fulvous.
Distribution. Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, all India South to Mysore and North Travancore ; East to Bihar, Orissa and Western Bengal. It is not found in the wetter districts of Eastern Bengal or in Assam but occurs in North-West Burma, the North and South Shan States and South Burma to Pegu and Tenasserim.
Nidification. This handsome Swallow breeds throughout its habitat in the Plains from February to April and again a second time from August to October. In addition odd nests may be found in almost any month, though in the hottest weeks of May and June few birds attempt to breed. In the hills and Himalayas where they breed up to 6,000 feet (Dodsworth), the breeding-season only lasts from May to July. The nest is a deep semi-cu made, as usual, of mud and is lined first with fine scraps of grass and then feathers. It is built against rocks, under bridges and culverts or under projections of buildings, walls and roofs. It almost invariably selects a site alongside or actually over water and few nests are built at any distance from river, tank or well. The eggs number two to four, most often three, and are like glossy well-marked examples of those of the Common Swallow; they are in fact the best and brightest marked of all Swallows' eggs. One hundred eggs average 18.4x 13.1 mm.: maxima 20.0 X 13.0 and 19.1 x 13.8 mm.; minima 16.1 x 12.9 and 16.9 x 12.2 mm.
Habits. Except that it keeps so closely to the vicinity of water, there is little in its habits that differs from those of the Common Swallow. Its flight is certainly swifter and it is more energetic and also, perhaps, rather more noisy but, like that bird, it feeds its young on the wing and is most active in the early mornings and evenings. It is resident wherever found, from Sind to Tenasserim. It is not truly gregarious either in breeding or at other times.