Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Andean Swallow Orochelidon andecola

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Elsie Shogren


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Andean Swallow is endemic to the Andes, breeding in the high puna on cliffs and in roofs. The overall impression is of a dark, square-tailed swallow. It is a dark glossy blue on the upperparts, with a paler dusky gray-brown the rump, and pale gray-brown underparts. It is found above the elevational range of most swallow species, but may occur alongside the Blue-and-white Swallow (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca) and the Brown-bellied Swallow (Orochelidon murina).

Similar Species

Similar species found in the Andean Swallow's puna zone habitat are the Brown-bellied (Orochelidon murina) and Blue-and-white (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca) swallows.  However, the Brown-bellied Swallow is uniformly dark below, has a more deeply forked tail, and a darker rump.  The Blue-and-white Swallow is pure white on the throat, breast and belly, is bluer above, and the rump is the same color as the back. The juvenile Andean Swallow has a rusty (not grayish brown) rump, and so perhaps could be confused with the Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), a rare migrant to the altiplano.

Detailed Description

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

A medium-sized swallow with a relatively short, notched or square tail.

Adult (sexes similar): Upperparts glossy blue-black (oroyae) or greenish-black (andecola); rump and uppertail coverts brownish (but may be concolor with the back in older individuals). Lores black; auriculars gray. Sides of the head, the chin, throat and breast gray-brown, shading to paler grayish white on the belly and undertail coverts. The flanks and the underwing coverts are gray-brown.

Juvenile:  Plumage duller and browner. Tips to the tertials white, and tips of the greater wing coverts buffy. The rump is rufous-brown, and the uppertail coverts have a tawny tinge. Belly and undertail coverts are washed with pale rufous.


No information.

Bare Parts

Data from Turner and Rose (1989):

Iris: Brown

Bill: Black

Tarsi and toes: Horn-colored


Total length: 13.5 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 1989), 14 cm (Turner and Rose 1989, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990, Jaramillo 2003).

Linear measurements from Turner and Rose (1989):

Wing length: mean 115.7 mm (range 113-122 mm)

Tail length: mean 56 mm (range 54-58 mm)

Bill length: mean 9.4 mm (range 8.8-9.9 mm)

Tarsus length: mean 11.3 mm (range 11.2-11.9 mm)

Mass: mean 17 g (range 14-19 g) (Turner and Rose 1989)

Recommended Citation

Shogren, E. (2010). Andean Swallow (Orochelidon andecola), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.