White-tailed swallow -- 白尾燕 (Hirundo megaensis)

Female white-tailed swallow
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White-tailed swallow fact file

White-tailed swallow description

GenusHirundo (1)

This fast and elegant small swallow is distinguishable from other swallows by its completely white underparts (3). The male has a glossy, deep iridescent blue upper coat, appearing almost black (2) (3). The female’s coat is less glossy than the male’s and the white on the tail is reduced or absent (3). Both sexes have a slightly forked tail, and the wings are black with a blue sheen (2) (3). The juveniles are duller in colour and, like the female, often lack the white on the tail. The white-tailed swallow has a high- pitched ‘twittering’ call (3).

Hirondelle à queue blanche.
Length: 13 cm (2)
11 g (2)

White-tailed swallow biology

The white-tailed swallow forages around flowering trees for beetles which are its main food source (3). Breeding primarily takes place during the main rainy season from April to May (3), although it has also been recorded in January and February (2). The open cup nests of the white-tailed swallow can be found on rafters inside traditional houses (2) (3), and also on termite mounds (2). Information on clutch sizes is limited; however, a clutch of three eggs has been recorded, as has a nest containing four nestlings.


White-tailed swallow range

The white-tailed swallow is endemic to Ethiopia and restricted to a range around the towns of Mega and Yabello in the south of the country (3).


White-tailed swallow habitat

Mainly found in open, semi-arid country, the white-tailed swallow prefers areas with short grass and low Acacia thorn-scrub, occurring less commonly over farmland (3). It can also be found in Acacia woodland and in nearby villages (2). It is found at an altitudinal range from 990 to 2,400 metres, although more commonly between 1,500 and 1,700 metres (2).


White-tailed swallow status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


White-tailed swallow threats

Due to its restricted distribution, the primary threat to the white-tailed swallow is the intensification of land use across its range, where Acacia thorn-scrub is being converted to grazing land (3). Although the white-tailed swallow is found on farmland, it is found in this habitat at much lower densities (3).


White-tailed swallow conservation

The population estimate of white-tailed swallows in 2003 was less than 10,000 individuals. However, data on this is poor and surveys which have been carried out give conflicting results (3).

In 1985, an area of around 2,500 square kilometres in the Yabelllo Valley was designated as a sanctuary to protect the white-tailed swallow and the Ethiopian bush-crow (3). However, as yet, there is no active management in the sanctuary (2) (3). Recent changes have now put the Regional Government in charge of protected areas, and it is hoped that plans will be put in place to initiate conservation management of the sanctuary (3).

Future conservation plans are focusing on research to understand the ecology, habitat requirements and range restrictions of the white-tailed swallow (2). The rates of Acacia clearance are to be monitored, and it is hoped that the area of suitable habitat for the white-tailed swallow will be increased (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Eliot, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (June, 2008)

Image credit

Female white-tailed swallow  
Female white-tailed swallow

© Paul F. Donald, RSPB

Paul F. Donald


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