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(swallows and martins), a family of birds of the order Passeriformes. The body length measures 10–23 cm. The bill is flattened, with a very wide gape. The wings are long and narrow. The legs are short, and the birds practically cannot walk; they perch on the ground only to gather material for nests. The upper parts are generally dark, often with a blue, green, or purple iridescence. The underparts are light.
The family comprises 79 species, which are distributed throughout the globe except for the arctic and antarctic. In the USSR, seven species nest: the house martin (Delichon urbica); the common, or barn, swallow (Hirundo rustica); the red-rumped swallow (Hirundo daurica); the wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii); the crag martin (Riparia rupestris); the bank swallow, or sand martin (Riparia riparia); and the brown-throated sand martin, or Indian sand martin (Riparia paludicola). In addition, the tree swallow (Iridoprocne bicolor) and the cliff swallow (Petrochelidon albifrons) fly in from North America. The hirundines that nest in the USSR are migratory birds and winter in Africa and southern Asia.
The nests are hemispherical or shaped like a flat flask. They are made from muddy pellets mixed with saliva and are attached to the walls of buildings or to cliffs. Some species nest in burrows or tree hollows. The hirundines often settle in colonies. There are two to seven eggs per clutch and one or two clutches per year. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 14 to 16 days. The hirundines feed almost exclusively on insects, which they catch in flight. Only one species feeds on juniper berries.
REFERENCEPtitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 6. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1954.
A. I. IVANOV