White-winged swallow

The white-winged swallow (Tachycineta albiventer) is a resident breeding swallow in tropical South America from Colombia, Venezuela, and Trinidad south to northern Argentina. It is not found west of the Andes. This swallow is largely non-migratory.

White-winged swallow
White-winged Swallow 1052.jpg
at rest in the Llanos, Venezuela
Scientific classification edit
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Tachycineta
T. albiventer
Binomial name
Tachycineta albiventer
(Boddaert, 1783)
Tachycineta albiventer distribution map.png


The white-winged swallow was described by the French polymath Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in 1780 in his Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux from a specimen collected in Cayenne, French Guiana.[2] The bird was also illustrated in a hand-coloured plate engraved by François-Nicolas Martinet in the Planches Enluminées D'Histoire Naturelle which was produced under the supervision of Edme-Louis Daubenton to accompany Buffon's text.[3] Neither the plate caption nor Buffon's description included a scientific name but in 1783 the Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert coined the binomial name Hirundo albiventer in his catalogue of the Planches Enluminées.[4] The white-winged swallow is now one of nine species placed in the genus Tachycineta that was introduced in 1850 by the German ornithologists Jean Cabanis.[5][6] The species is monotypic and no subspecies are currently recognized.[6] The genus name is from the Ancient Greek takhukinētos meaning "moving quickly". The specific epithet albiventer combines the Latin albus meaning "white" and venter meaning belly.[7]


The adult white-winged swallow is 14 cm (5.5 in) long and weighs 14–17 g (0.49–0.60 oz). It has iridescent blue-green upperparts, white underparts and rump, and white edgings to the secondary flight feathers. The wings are otherwise black, along with the tail. It has dark brown eyes and a black bill and legs. The sexes are similar, although it is noted that the females have slightly less white on the wing. Juveniles have grayer underparts and are duller in general when compared to the adults. The juvenile also has less white on the wing.[8][9][10]

White-winged swallows can be distinguished from the similar mangrove swallow by the lack of a white line above its lores and a greater amount of white on its wings.[10]

The call is a harsh chirrup or a repeated, rising, buzz-like zweeed.[9] The alarm call is short and harsh.[8][10]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The white-winged swallow is native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Occasional vagrants reach Panama.[1][11] They are usually not found on the Pacific coast, especially in the southern portion of South America.[8][9]

The species is usually found in or near lowland areas along bodies of water such as rivers or lakes, at elevations of about 500 m (1,600 ft).[9]

It is resident in most of its range, although in the most southerly part it is migratory. In Brazil and Argentina, it is only present from approximately mid September to mid April. Where this population winters is not well known, but it is most likely in the Guianas, Venezuela, and Colombia.[10]

Behaviour and ecologyEdit


The white-winged swallow builds a cup nest lined with other birds' feathers and some seed inside a tree hole,[12] between boulders or in man-made structures. Nests are usually built a few metres above water; pairs nest separately. The clutch is three to six white eggs, measuring 17 mm–20 mm × 13 mm–14.6 mm (0.67 in–0.79 in × 0.51 in–0.57 in) in size and weighing 1.9 g (0.067 oz).[8][9][10]

Food and feedingEdit

The white-winged swallow feeds primarily in flight at a low altitude, catching flying insects.[9] It usually forages over water but may also feeds over land. In between foraging attempts, it usually perches on branches near bodies of water.[13] Flight paths are direct and they fly with a flapping flight.[9][10]


The white-winged swallow is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, based on its very large range, apparently stable population, and large population size.[1]


  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2016). "Tachycineta albiventer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22712065A94317143. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22712065A94317143.en.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de (1780). "L'hirondelle à ventre blanc, de Cayenne". Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (in French). Volume 12. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. pp. 451–452.
  3. ^ Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de; Martinet, François-Nicolas; Daubenton, Edme-Louis; Daubenton, Louis-Jean-Marie (1765–1783). "Hirondelle à ventre blanc, de Cayenne". Planches Enluminées D'Histoire Naturelle. Volume 6. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. Plate 546 Fig. 2.
  4. ^ Boddaert, Pieter (1783). Table des planches enluminéez d'histoire naturelle de M. D'Aubenton : avec les denominations de M.M. de Buffon, Brisson, Edwards, Linnaeus et Latham, precedé d'une notice des principaux ouvrages zoologiques enluminés (in French). Utrecht. p. 32, Number 546 Fig. 2.
  5. ^ Cabanis, Jean (1850–1851). Museum Heineanum : Verzeichniss der ornithologischen Sammlung des Oberamtmann Ferdinand Heine, auf Gut St. Burchard vor Halberstadt (in German and Latin). Volume 1. Halbertstadt: R. Frantz. p. 48.
  6. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Swallows". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  7. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 39, 377. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  8. ^ a b c d Turner, Angela (2013). del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi; Christie, David A.; de Juana, Eduardo (eds.). "White-winged Swallow (Tachycineta albiventer)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Sedgwick, Carolyn. "Overview - White-winged Swallow (Tachycineta albiventer) - Neotropical Birds". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Turner, Angela K; Rose, Chris (1989). Swallows & Martins: An Identification Guide and Handbook. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-51174-9. p103–105
  11. ^ "White-winged Swallow - Tachycineta albiventer - Overview - Encyclopedia of Life". Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  12. ^ E.g. of Macrolobium sp. (Greeney & Merino M. 2006)
  13. ^ "White-winged Swallow (Tachycineta albiventer)". Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) (2000): Forty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 117(3): 847–858. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2000)117[0847:FSSTTA]2.0.CO;2
  • ffrench, Richard; O'Neill, John Patton & Eckelberry, Don R. (1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2
  • Greeney, Harold F. & Merino M., Paúl A. (2006): Notes on breeding birds from the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve in northeastern Ecuador. Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología 16(2): 46–57. PDF fulltext
  • Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5