4 Dec 2012

Asian Red-rumped Swallow - (Cecropis daurica) in Hong Kong

Asian Red-rumped Swallow ( Cecropis daurica ) race "daurica" OR "japonensis"

In the late autumn, flocks of migrant Red-rumped Swallows can be found hawking insects over the fishponds around Deep Bay.  The gloomy weather of the last few days seems to have brought in a lot of them, more than I think I've seen before.  On Dec 2nd there were about forty over just one fishpond near Mai Po  Nature Reserve.

In "The BIRDS of HONG KONG and SOUTH CHINA", Clive Viney notes…"amount of fine streakng variable".  Here are a few photos that show exactly that..

(same individual as top bird)

Asian Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica

The swallows were being quite obliging for photography, they were flying low and straightish over the water. I always think that Red-rumped flies noticeably slower than Barn Swallow which helps when I'm trying to crank an 800mm lens around on a Wimberley head.

Twice in the half-hour I spent at the pond edge, the swallows rose as one from wingtip height to about ten metres in the air.  This was prompted both times by a passing Kestrel.  The silent (to MY ears) communication among the flock seemed to be 100 % effective, and their co-ordination was something to behold.

Here's the Kestrel :-

Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

And here's a nest-building Red-Rumped Swallow from Jiangxi Province (June 2011);-

Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica

And in the "also photographed" category, a "fohkinensis" race Pale Martin :-

Pale Martin - Riparia diluta fohkinensis

And Hong Kong's supermarkets are playing Christmas "musak" - is it that time of the year again already ?


Edited: 1) To change "Hirundo" to "Cecropis" - Wake Up, John !

             2) To add the Jiangxi RRS photo

              3) And to highlight that these are races daurica or japonica


  1. Great BIF shots, I have never managed any as good as these!

  2. Replies
    1. Andrew and Stu,

      I just bang off plenty of shots and edit, edit !

      I took these with Jemi's 5D MK III and been pleased with the results, - good image quality at high ISOs and the autofocus pretty good, too.The light was very poor.

  3. Which race(s) of RRS do you think you are seeing, John?

    1. Simon,

      Good question. These are either "daurica" or "japonica" (or both ! ), but I don't think anyone in Hong Kong is firm about which. Rightly so, given individual variation and how similar these races are anyway. Bird ringing is done here, but I don't know how many RR Swallows the ringers get.

      Birding World - Issue 296 September 2011- went into some depth about "Asian" Red-rumped Swallows; At that time there were one British and three Norwegian records of "Asian" RRS, that is "daurica/japonica".

    2. My point exactly John - your excellent photos could well be of interest to Steve Gantlett at Birding World - I suggest you email him the link. Could be a few quid in it for you!

    3. Simon -

      Birding World contacted me in August 2011 for a pic of the Jiangxi Province Red-rumped Swallow; but we were in Qinghai Province, and they were in a hurry, so it didn't happen. Never mind... :-)