Lesser Striped Swallow

Cecropis abyssinica

One of the most abundant swallows in Africa, the Lesser Striped Swallow visits most of South Africa during our warmer months (though some birds remain year-round in the warmer Lowveld and northern reaches of Kwazulu-Natal). The majority of the local population arrives from July and August and head back northwards between February and May.

The Lesser Striped Swallow is a bird of mesic woodlands and savannas, often being seen close to open water, but have adapted to cultivated land and thrives in urbanised environments. Insects and other invertebrates, caught on the wing, make up the majority of their food intake though they will also settle on branches to feed on seeds and small berries on occasion.

Lesser Striped Swallows construct bowl-shaped nests of mud under rock overhangs, horizontal branches, culverts, bridges and the eaves of roofs. These nests are often used for several consecutive years, and not always by the same pair of birds. Pairs are monogamous. Their breeding season stretch over several months from early spring to autumn. Clutches of 2-4 eggs are incubated by the female for 3 weeks. While the hatchlings start flying when they’re less than 3 weeks old, they still remain dependent on their parents for the shelter of their nest and food for about a month after taking to the air for the first time.

Although it is only a summer visitor to most of South Africa, where it can be commonly seen in all provinces with the exception of the Free State, Western and Northern Cape, the Lesser Striped Swallow has a wide distribution over most of Sub-Saharan Africa and is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN, which also states that their populations are growing.

Lesser Striped Swallows often occur alongside the Greater Striped Swallow with which it can easily be confused.

34 thoughts on “Lesser Striped Swallow

  1. naturebackin

    Lovely photos of this endearing (and hard to photograph) swallow. I particularly like the photo of the two gathering mud. They have such a cute and cheering call that I still associate with pairs nesting under the eaves of the huts at Mkhuze rest camp from holidays there when I was a child.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      You are so right, Carol – uMkhuze’s Mantuma Camp is an excellent place to see Lesser Striped Swallows in summer! Now I am imaging munching on a burger bought at the little Rhino-Dine-O while a mixed herd of nyala and impala move through the camp. Bliss.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          I’m trusting that, despite the shenanigans in the boardroom at Ezemvelo, the dedication and hard work of the “foot soldiers” on the ground in the reserves will carry the organisation through.

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  2. amoralegria

    So cute! I’m wondering though – many birds have curious names. Is this bird lesser striped (as opposed to greater striped) smaller than its counterpart? Does it actually have fewer stripes? I clicked on the link you provided and could not see much difference between the two in terms of stripes, but the greater striped seem a lot fatter.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      You are spot on! The “Greater” is buffer in appearance and slightly larger in all dimensions that the “Lesser”, though you’d really have to have both of them sit together to do the comparison. For me, the easiest ID feature is that the Lesser has a far bigger part of the head covered by the rufous colouration than does the Greater.

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  3. Don Reid

    Lovely photos! One of the most handsome swallows in my opinion. They don’t come as far south as Mossel Bay where we have been since lockdown began, but I did see its Greater Striped Swallow cousin last week so summer is around the corner!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We also had two terribly cold days yesterday and Wednesday, but thankfully it passed quickly. This really was the coldest winter I can remember for a long time and definitely the coldest I’ve experienced since moving to Pretoria at the end of 2006.

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