Swallow PNG Transparent Images

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Swallows, martins and saw wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerines found worldwide on all continents, including occasionally in Antarctica. Very adapted to aerial feeding, they have a distinctive appearance. The term swallow is commonly used in Europe as a synonym for barn swallow. There are around 90 species of Hirundinidae, divided into 19 genera, with the most incredible diversity found in Africa, which is also believed to be the place where they evolved as hole-nesters. They also occur on several ocean islands. Many European and North American species migrate over long distances; on the other hand, West and South Africa’s swallows are non-migratory.

This family includes two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows, martins and saw wings). In the Old World, the name martin tends to be used for square tail species and the name to swallow for forked tail species; however, there is no scientific distinction between these two groups. Within the New World, “martin” is reserved for members of the genus Progne. (These two systems are responsible for the sand martin called “bank swallow” in the New World.)


The family Hirundinidae was introduced (like Hirundia) by the French polymath Constantin Samuel Rafinesque in 1815. Hirundinidae are morphologically unique in passerines, with molecular evidence placing them as a distinct lineage within Sylvioidea (Old World Warblers and relatives). They have also been linked to white eyes. Under the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, they were placed in the Passerida infra-order.

Within the family, there is a clear division between the two subfamilies, the Pseudochelidoninae, which are composed of the two species of river martins, and the Hirundininae remaining species are placed. The division of Hirundininae has been the source of much discussion, with various taxonomists dividing them into 24 genera and grouping them into just 12. There is an agreement that there are three main groups within Hirundininae, the saw-wings of the genus Psalidoprocne, the basic martins, and the Hirundo genus’ swallows and their allies. The saw wings are the most basal of the three, the other two clades being sister to each other. The phylogeny of swallows is closely linked to the evolution of nest construction; the more basal saw wings use burrows as a nest, the central martins have both burrowing (in members of the Old World) and the adoption of cavity (in members of the New World) as strategies. The like Hirundo and its allies use mud nests.

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