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Tachycineta meyeni

Chilean Swallow

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Marion, Jonah Seth



The Chilean Swallow is a standard Tachycineta, blue above with white underparts; like several other species of Tachycineta, it also has a white rump.

Similar Species

The Chilean Swallow is one of five species of South American Tachycineta swallows with a white rump; the other species are Tumbes Swallow (T. stolzmanni), White-winged Swallow (T. albiventer), White-rumped Swallow (T. leucorrhoa), and Mangrove Swallow (T. albilinea). The Chilean Swallow is more blue above than these congeners, lacking the greenish tones on the upperparts of the other species. It also does not overlap geographically with Tumbes and Mangrove Swallows. White-winged Swallow easily is distinguished by the large amount of white on inner wing coverts and secondaries.

The Chilean Swallow is closely similar to the White-rumped Swallow, however, and although the breeding ranges have little or no overlap, the Chilean Swallow migrates north into the range of the White-rumped. In addition to the somewhat greener tones to the upperparts, the White-rumped Swallow has a narrow white line on the lores, a feature that is absent (typically) or greatly reduced in Chilean (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Also, the underwing coverts of White-rumped Swallow are paler (white, rather than light gray as in Chilean; Schulenberg et al. 2007).


The song has been described as "3 or 4 high gurgling sounds followed by 2 lower, gutteral [sic] gurgling noises" (Peterson and Humphrey, in Humphrey et al. 1970) or as "a varied, gurgling, liquid series lasting c. 2 s[econds], sometimes prolonged if excited" (Jaramillo 2003).

The call is "a harsh, nasal, buzzy 'dzzk' " (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Turner and Rose (1989) and Fjeldså and Krabbe (1990):

Adult: The upperparts are deep metallic blue, other than a white rump; some feathers on the rump may have a small dark spot along the shaft. The uppertail coverts are black. The lores are black, although there sometimes there are a few white feathers over the bill or on the lores; the auriculars are black with a blue gloss. The feathers of the lower breast, especially those at the side of the breast, have dark bases, sometimes producing a narrow dark mark on the sides of the breast. The remiges are brownish black, the tertials and inner secondaries with narrow white tips when fresh. The under wing coverts are light grayish or grayish brown.

Tail slightly forked.

Juvenile: Similar to the adult, but duller and browner above, with only upper back and wing coverts glossy.  Upper tail coverts blackish tipped with white instead of being completely black.  Usually has a narrow line of white feathers above the lores.

Bare Parts

Data from Turner and Rose (1989):

Iris dark brown.

Bill, tarsi, toes black.


Linear measurements from Turner and Rose (1989):

Feature Min Length (mm) Max length (mm) Mean (mm)
Body Overall - - 120
Wing 105 117 110.3
Tail 47 57 52.9
Tail fork 5 10 7.1
Bill 9.6 11.1 10.2
Tarsus 10.6 12.5 11

Mass: mean 17 g (range 15-20 g; Turner and Rose 1989); mean 14.9 g (range 14-16 g, SD 0.6, n = 21 males; Egli 1996, in Dunning 2008).


No information.

Geographic Variation

Monotypic; no geographic variation.


Described as Hirundo leucopyga by Meyen in 1834. The species name used for the Chilean Swallow has oscillated between leucopyga (e.g., Hellmayr 1932, Hellmayr 1935, Peters 1960, Meyer de Schauensee 1966, Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Turner and Rose 1989, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990) and meyeni (e.g., Brooke 1974, Jaramillo 2003, Schulenberg et al. 2007), depending upon whether the name leucopyga is considered to be preoccupied by another, earlier use of this name. Although meyeni currently is the most commonly used name, Mlíkovský and Frahnert (2009) argue that the original name leucopgya is valid and should be resurrected for this species.

The species of the current genus Tachycineta formerly (e.g. Ridgway 1904) were distributed among four different genera; the Chilean Swallow, meyeni, previously was included in the genus Iridoprocne, which also included the species bicolor (Tree Swallow), albilinea (Mangrove Swallow), leucorrhoa (White-rumped Swallow), albiventer (White-winged Swallow), and stolzmanni (Tumbes Swallow). Later Brooke (1974) proposed two subgenera for Tachycineta - Leucochelidon and Tachycineta - and placed meyeni in the subgenus Leucochelidon, along with albilinea (and thus, stolzmanni), leucorrhoa, and albiventer.
Using mitochondrial DNA sequence data, Whittingham et al. (2002) confirmed the monophyly of Tachycineta. Whittingham et al. (2002) also recovered two clades within Tachycineta, which are consistent with the two subgenera proposed by Brooke. Therefore, the Chilean Swallow belongs to a clade that primarily is made up of South American species. Within this clade, meyeni is the sister species to leucorrhoa; those two species in turn are sister to stolzmanni, albiventer, and albilinea.

Recommended Citation

Marion, Jonah Seth. 2010. Chilean Swallow (Tachycineta meyeni), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: