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The swallows and martins are a group of passerine birds in the family Hirundinidae which are characterised by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the Barn Swallow.

This family comprises two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (the river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows and martins). Within the Old World, the name "martin" tends to be used for the squarer-tailed species, and the name "swallow" for the more fork-tailed species; however, there is no scientific distinction between these two groups. Within the New World, "martin" is reserved for members of the genus Progne. (These two systems are responsible for the Sand Martin being called "Bank Swallow" in the New World.) The entire family contains around 83 species in 19 genera.

The swallows have a cosmopolitan distribution across the world and breed on all the continents except Antarctica. It is believed that this family originated in Africa as hole-nesters; Africa still has the greatest diversity of species. They also occur on a number of oceanic islands. A number of European and North American species are long-distance migrants; by contrast, the West and South African swallows are non-migratory. A few species of swallow and martin are threatened with extinction by human activities, although other species have benefited from human changes to the environment and live around humans.

Read more about Swallow:  Description, Behaviour and Ecology, Distribution and Habitat, Relationship With Humans, Taxonomy and Systematics

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Famous quotes containing the word swallow:

    The Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue.... Moreover this activity must occupy a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.
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