Cotile sinensis

Hirundo chinensis, J. E. Gray in Hardw. Illustr. Ind. Zool. i. pl. 35. fig. 3 (1830- 32).
Hirundo brevicaudata, McClell. P. Z. S. 1839, p. 156 ; Gray, Gen. B. i. p. 58 (1845).
Hirundo sinensis, Jerd. Madr. Journ, xi. p. 238 (1840) ; Blyth, J. A. S. Beng. xvi.
p. 119 (1847) ; id. Cat. B. Mus. As. Soc. p. 199 (1819).
Cotyle brevicaudata, Boie, Isis, 1811, p. 170.
Hirundo minuta, Hodgs. Icon. ined, in Brit. Mus., Passeres, pl. 9. fig. 2 (no. 333) ; id. in Gray’s Zool. Mise. p. 82 (1844).
Hirundo subsoccata, Hodgs. Icon. ined, in Brit. Mus., Passeres, pl. 9. fig. 1 (no. 332) ; id. in Gray’s Zool. Mise. p. 82 (1844).
Cotyle sinensis, Gray, Cat. Fiss. Brit. Mus. p. 30 (1848) ; Bp. Consp, i. p. 342 (1850) ; Cass. Cat. Hirund. Philad. Mus. p. 12 (1853) ; Horsf. & Moore, Cat. B. E. I. Co. Mus. i. p. 96 (1854) ; Jerd. B. Ind. i. p. 164 (1862) ; Swinh. Ibis, 1863, p. 257, 1866. p. 134 ; Blyth, t. c. p. 338 ; Beavan, Ibis, 1869, p. 404 ; Godwin-Austen, J. A. S. Beng, xxxix. p. 266 (1870) ; Swinh. P. Z. S. 1871, p. 347 ; Adam, Str. E. 1873, p. 370 ; Hume, Str. E. 1874, p. 469,1875, p. 452 ; Blyth & Wald. B. Burm. p. 127 (1875) ; Fairb. Str. F. 1876, p. 254 ; Butler, Str. F. 1877, p. 227 ; David & Oust. Ois. Chine, p. 128 (1877) ; Anders. Rep. Zool. Exped. Yunnan, Birds, p. 651 (1878) ; Hume & Davison, Str. F. 1878, p. 45 ; Davids. & Wend. Str. F. 1878. vol. ii. p. 76 ; Ball, t. e. p. 202 ; Cripps, t. e. p. 257 ; Hume, Str. F. 1879, p. 84 ; Scully, t. e. p. 234 ; Doig, t. e. p. 370 ; Butler, Cat. B. Sind &c. p. 13 (1879) ; id. Cat. B. S. Bomb. Pres. p. 14 (1880) ; Murray, Vertebr. Faun. Sind, p. 103 (1884) ; Reid. Cat. Lucknow Mus. p. 18 (1886) ; id. Str. F. 1887, p. 18 ; Davidson, t. e. p. 293 ; Hume, Str. F. xi. p. 29 (1888).
Cotyle subsoccata, Adams, P. Z. S. 1858, p. 495, 1859, p. 176 ; Jerd. B. Ind. i. p. 163 (1862) ; Blyth, Ibis, 1866, p. 338 ; Jerd. Ibis, 1871, p. 353.
Cotile sinensis, Gray, Hand-l. B. i. p. 73, no. 865 (1869) ; Hume, Nests & Eggs Ind. B. p. 82 ; id. Str. F. 1873, p. 164 ; Oates, B. Brit. Burm. i. p. 309 (1883) ; Sharpe, Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 104 (1885) ; Swinh. & Barnes, Ibis, 1885. p. 60.
Cotile subsoceata, Hume, Nests & Eggs Ind. B. p. 82 (1873).
Cotile obscurior, Hume, Str. F. 1875, p. 43.
? Cotyle obsoleta, Legge, B. Ceylon, p. 599 (1879).
C. similis C. paludicola:, sed multo minor et uropygio paullo albicanti-grisco lavato.
Hab. in regione Indica et in sub-regione Indo-Sinensi.
Adult male. General colour above glossy brown, rather paler towards the rump and upper tail-coverts ; wings a little darker brown than the back, with edgings of slightly paler brown, as well as on the inner secondaries ; bastard-wing, primary-coverts, and quills dark brown ; tail-feathers dark brown ; lores, feathers round the eye, and ear-coverts brown ; throat and breast ashy brown ; lower breast, abdomen, and under tail-coverts white ; flanks slightly washed with brown ; thighs brown; axillaries and under wing-coverts brown like the breast but a little darker ; quills dusky below, rather browner along the inner webs : “ bill black ; gape pale fleshy ; iris dark brown ; feet dusky brownish, claws dusky” (Scully). Total length 3.9 inches, culmen 0.25, wing 3.45, tail 1.6, tarsus 0.4.
Adult female. Like the male in plumage. Total length 4 inches, culmen 0.25, wing 3.3, tail 1.55, tarsus 0.35.
Young. Much lighter brown than the adults, and shaded with sandy rufous, all the feathers broadly edged with the latter colour, producing a nearly uniform rufous appearance on the lower back and rump; underneath, the portions of the throat and breast which are brown in the adult are pale sandy rufous.
Hab. Southern China and Formosa, Cochin China and the Burmese countries to Northern Tenasserim, Northern India from Assam to Sind, and south to the Central Provinces and the Southern Bombay Presidency.
THIS pretty little Sand-Martin is widely spread over India, but becomes rarer towards the south of the Peninsula, and is entirely unrecorded from many districts.
Mr. Hume says that it is abundant on all the great Punjab rivers and on the Indus, and his collection contains specimens from the banks of the latter and the Chenab Hiver, obtained during his expedition to Sind in the month of December, at Mooltan, Sukkur, and Kusmore. Mr. Murray says that it is a permanent resident in Sind, and breeds at Buggatora and upwards, towards, and beyond Schwan, in holes in the river-banks about January. Mr. Hume states that he has taken eggs in May on the Jhelum, and Mr. Scrope Doig found it nesting in the Eastern Narra in February. Colonel Butler, whose specimens from Deesa, procured in January, are in the Hume collection, considers it to be a permanent resident throughout Sind, Cutch, Kathiawar, and Gujarat, where, he says, it is common, but is, as a rule, confined to the banks of rivers. In a later-published note Colonel Butler gives the date of arrival as the 25th of June in 1876, and the date of departure as the 20th of April. He thinks that a few birds may remain all the year round, but the majority disappear in hot weather. He believes that it breeds on Mount Aboo. Mr. Hume adds a note that though it occurs in suitable localities in Sind, Cutch, Kathiawar, and Jodhpur, it is comparatively rare in the three latter. Dr. Leith Adams found the species abundant on the Chimouraree Lake in Ladak, and during the cold months on lakes and pools among the salt-ranges of the Punjab. Mr. It. M. Adam records it as very common near Sambhur, and lias taken the nest on the 15th of April. Colonel G. F. L. Marshall has found the present species breeding near Saharanpur in April, and Mr. Hume states that he has taken eggs on the Jumna in the Etawah district in February and April. The Hume collection also contains specimens procured near Delhi in October and December. The late Captain Beavan observed it in some abundance on the 1st of April, 1866, when on the march from Umbala to Kalka, and within some ten or twelve miles of the latter place.
In the Kumaon Bhabur, Dr. King procured specimens in January and March. Mr. R. M. Adam found it breeding in Oudh on the 23rd of Aril. Mr. George Reid says that in the Lucknow Division it is abundant along the banks of all the rivers, and frequents Hyder Ali’s canal in vast numbers, breeding from February to May.
Dr. Scully found the species “fairly common in the valley of Nepal, and it resides there throughout the year; in winter it is very noticeable, as the Swallows and Swifts are then absent. It was met with in fair numbers in winter in the Nawakot district and Markhu Valley. The bird is usually found over wet fields and marshy ground, and along the course of streams. It has its holes and breeds in the banks of rivers and in the sides of the alluvial cliffs so common in the valley of Nepal.” Specimens collected by him in February and May are in the Hume collection, which also contains an immature bird procured by Mr. Mandelli in Native Sikhim in May, and both old and young birds obtained by the same naturalist in the Bhotan Dooars.
In his ‘List of the Birds of Manipur, Assam, Sylhet, and Cachar,’ Mr. Hume writes :—“ Occasionally seen about the larger streams in the ’Western and near the Southern Hills. Common throughout the basin, especially about the capital and the Logtak Lake; only very rarely met with in the Eastern Hills. I found this species occasionally in moderate-sized communities all along the rivers in Sylhet and Cachar. From the Valley of Assam I do not find it recorded, and I have as yet received no speci¬mens thence, but it almost certainly occurs there.”
Mr. Davison procured a specimen at Seraigung on the Brahmaputra River in December. Mr. Cripps states that it is decidedly common in the Dibrugurh district, along the larger rivers, where the banks are precipitous. During the rains they migrate.
Colonel Godwin-Austen, in his second list of the birds of the Khasia Hills, records it as breeding in January at Shirshang, in the banks of the Lumessary River. Some mistake has occurred in the dimensions of the specimens, as pointed out by Mr. Hume, the length being given as 12.1/2 inches, and the wing as 8.1/4 inches.
The Indian Sand-Martin is found near Calcutta, and Mr. Blyth has found it breeding in the banks of the Hugli during the cold season. Buchanan Hamilton states that the species is migratory near Calcutta, coming in October and leaving in .March ; but Jerdon states that he has seen them frequently in May, and during the rains also, but, (hey were more scattered at the time. The same observer states that the species is rani in the south of India, where there are few rivers with high alluvial hanks, but is found in even- large river from the Godavery northwards, and swarming on the Ganges.
Near Faridpur, in Eastern Bengal, Mr. J. R. Cripps states that it is very common during the cold weather, and their nesting-holes are to he seen in all the high hanks. It breeds in February and March, and by the end of April all have left the district.
The Hume collection contains specimens from Raipur and the Sumbulpur district in the Central Provinces, and Prof. Valentine Ball obtained specimens of the species in the latter locality.
Colonel Swinhoe and Lieut. Barnes, writing on the birds of the Mhow district, observe:—“ The Indian Sand-Martin is very common, and is a permanent resident, breeding in January and February in holes excavated by the birds themselves in the sandy banks of the river. The holes are from 18 to 24 inches in depth.”
Mr. J. Davidson, in his rough list of the birds of Western Khandeish, writes as follows :—“ Common in Taloda, Shada, and Nandurbar in the cold weather. I think it left the district in the hot weather, but find nothing about it in my notes and cannot remember. It bred abundantly along the Tapti in November and December.” Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, in their notes on the Avifauna of the Deccan, state that it is tolerably common in that part of India. At San gola it breeds singly, in river-banks, in December. On the banks of the Bhima, Mr. Davidson got a single nest with three fresh eggs in March.
Colonel Butler includes it as a permanent resident in the Bombay Presidency. He says it is “ common, as a rule, in suitable localities throughout the region, but not as yet recorded from Ratnagiri. It probably avoids the forest tracts.” Mr. Fairbank, in his list of birds from the vicinity of Khandala, records the species from near Satara, and the Hume collection contains a specimen from Rahuri in the Ahmednuggur district, procured on the 23rd of March.
In Colonel Legge’s ‘ Birds of Ceylon,’ mention is made of the occurrence of a Sand- Martin in that island, which had been observed by Mr. Bligh on several occasions during the north-east monsoon. Colonel Legge suggests that the species may have been Cotile obsoleta, but it is just as likely to have belonged to the present species.
In Burmah, Mr. Blyth states that it is common along the rivers, where it holds the place of C. riparia of Europe. Captain Wardlaw Ramsay found it near Tonghoo. Mr. Oates says that it is common in Araean and Pegu in the neighbourhood of all the large rivers. Mr. Davison procured two specimens at Pahpoon, in Northern Tenasserim, in January, but says that it is rare in the province. He writes :—“ I never saw it in the Gyne, Hongthraw, Attaran, or any of the more southern streams ; in fact, I only observed it at Pahpoon, where they occurred in moderate numbers. When I was leaving Pahpoon, about the end of February, these birds were just commencing to excavate their nest-holes in the banks of the Younzaleen.”
Dr. Anderson shot a couple of specimens on a little sandy promontory in the second defile of the Irawady. According to Dr. Tiraud it is common in Cochin China, and Abbe David states that it is spread over Southern China, and that he met with it in the south of Chensi, immediately after the melting of the snow, so that he supposes that it must winter in the hotter portions of the Celestial Empire.
The late Consul Swinhoe has given the following account of the species in the island of Formosa :—“ Is a summer visitant to all suitable localities in the south of China, and is also found in all parts of Formosa, frequenting the steep sandy banks of rivers, into which it bores long galleries, constructing at the end of these its cup-shaped nest, and depositing therein three white eggs. Its winter migrations extend to the plains of Hindostan, where, curiously enough, it is reported by observers to nest again in the heart of winter. This is, I believe, the only well-authenticated fact recorded of this long-suspected habit in migratory birds. It visits Formosa in April, and leaves again in October.
“Some fifteen miles up the Tamsuy River, in a long sand-bank, I found several rows of perforations made by this bird. The birds were flying in and out of them in great numbers, so we stopped to examine them. Most of the holes were out of arm’s reach ; and as the bank was very steep, and composed of loose mud, we had great difficulty in establishing a footing. We managed, however, after much trouble, to insert our arms into several of them. The holes were in all stages of progress, some only just begun, others scarcely a foot deep ; in some the eggs were hard-set, in others quite freshly laid. The holes ran into the bank with only a slight inclination from the horizontal. In all instances they turned a little to the right, extending in depth to about two feet,—their diameter being from two to three inches, which is enlarged to a cavity about six or eight inches broad at the bottom. In its cup-shaped base was placed the nest, composed of light straw and dried grasses and lined with feathers. One nest, however, had no feathers ; but as it had no eggs, I concluded it was unfinished. The eggs in every case were only three in number, of a pinkish white, without spot or stain. On our disturbing the birds they rushed in consternation from their nesting-site, and after flying about low in the air at some distance in great agitation, they would meet together for some seconds as if in consultation. They would then again hurry off in different directions, and again meet. Finding we were in no hurry to leave their ground, they began to scatter and soar away to a considerable height. As soon, however, as we withdrew for a space, they returned, many diving at once into their burrows, others rushing back¬wards and forwards close past the holes, as if bewildered and afraid to enter. They were so numerous, and looked so small in the bright quivering light of a hot Formosan day, that they seemed to me at times more like Dragon-flies than birds." Again lie writes :—
“August 11th was a fine day, but very hot. I took a ten-mile ride into the country to the banks of a river near the loot of the first range of low hills. In the steep clay-banks occurred round holes bored by the Sand-Martin, but the little fellows had finished with them for the year.”
Mr. Hume was inclined at one time to consider that C. subsoccata was distinct from C. sinensis, and that both specie's bred in India. He has since united them, and gives the following notes in his ‘Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds ’:—
“ On the 11th January, 1867, I came across a colony of Sand-Martins, breeding in the high sandy banks of the Jumna, below Sheregurh, very near, in fact, to the joint, boundary of Etawah and Cawnpore. I shot two of the birds and got some eggs. I revisited the spot on the 12th of March, and again shot a pair of the birds and obtained more eggs.
“They build in communities in sandy banks overhanging rivers. They bore a small hole, about 3 inches in diameter, from 1.1/2 to 3 feet deep, into the bank, usually sloping a little upwards, at the end of which they scoop ont a sort of chamber, say 6 inches in diameter ; there they make a nest of very fine twigs and grass lined with a few soft feathers of the Wild Goose, Brahminy, and such like water-fowl ; they lay from two to three eggs.
“The nesting-time is from November to February in some parts of the country, and during April and May in others, and again at both periods in others.
“Mr. Blyth remarks (J. A. S. xvi. p. 119):—‘I have found both newly-laid eggs and young ready to fly in the beginning of December (at Calcutta), and also at the end of February. The nest-holes vary in depth from 1.1/2 feet to considerably more, according as the banks are more or less hard, and the nest itself is composed of dry grass, with occasionally a few feathers in the lining ; the eggs are pure white, like those of C. riparia.’
“Colonel G. F. L. Marshall, writing from Saharanpur, says that this species ‘builds in the first half of April, in a hole about 4 feet into a bank, lining the end of the hole with grass and a few feathers, and lays four pure white eggs.’ I myself have taken the eggs in May on the Jhelum, and on the Jumna, in the Etawah district, in February and April, but I have never found more than four eggs.”
“From the Sambhur Lake, Mr. R. M. Adam tells us :—‘The little Bank-Martin is very common about this. I obtained a nest on the 15th of April with two very hard set eggs. The nest was found in a hole in a bank, and was a compactly built cup¬shaped structure, outer diameter 4 inches ; egg-receptacle a little over two inches. The nest was made of grass and fibres well rounded together ; the outer portion of the nest was of a coarser quality than the lining, but made of the same material ; depth of egg- cavity 3/4 inch.’ In Oudh I took a nest of this bird on the 23rd April. The nest was composed of coarse grass loosely put together, and having a lining of biggish feathers. Its diameter measured 3.1/2 inches.
“The eggs are white and glossless, closely resembling those of C. riparia, from which it would be difficult to separate them. Nominally they are a pointed oval, but somewhat cylindrical varieties occur. They vary a good deal in size, as do those of all the allied species. The eggs I took varied from 0.63 to 0.75 inch in length, and from 0.48 to 0.65 inch in breadth, and they averaged 0.68 by 0.5 inch.”
Near Lucknow, writes Mr. Reid, “it breeds from February to May, making its nest invariably in holes in river-banks, &c., while its daily vocation appears to consist of an incessant whirling to and fro, relieved by frequent visits to its subterranean quarters. During May last I took many eggs from nests in the banks of the Goomti, of which 0.70 by 0.48 inch is the average measurement of ten.”
Mr. Oates gives the following account in his 'Handbook to the Birds of British Burmah ’:—
“This little Sand-Martin is a very common bird at all seasons of the year. It is mostly found on and near large rivers where the banks are steep, but not unfrequently it may be observed far inland, hawking after insects like ordinary Swallows. It lavs its eggs in a hole in a river-bank, the tunnel leading to the nest varying from one to four feet in length. The entrance to the tunnel and the passage itself is very small, but the egg-chamber is a roomy hollow. The eggs, which are four or five in number, are laid upon a pad of grass and are white. The excavation of the nest-holes is commenced in Burmah about November. The birds usually breed in large colonies, a firm and nearly perpendicular bank being selected for the purpose.”
The evidence given above tends to prove that the Indian Sand-Martin nests in most parts of India, and is a resident, though no specimens in the British Museum bear a later date than May. The migrations in China, of which Consul Swinhoe and Abbe David speak, refer in all probability to the disappearance of the species in the cold weather to more southern latitudes ; but it is questionable whether any great influx of individuals takes place at that season into the Indian region from China.
The descriptions are taken from specimens in the British Museum, and the figures in the Plate are drawn from some birds in the Hume 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: 
Cotile sinensis
Spp Author: 
J. e gray
Book Author: 
Richard Bowdler
Page No: 
Common name: 
Indian Sand Martin
Grey-throated Martin
Riparia chinensis
Vol. 1
Term name: 

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