Northern Rough-winged Swallow
northern rough-winged swallow



northern rough-winged swallow

This swallow’s most distinguishing characteristic is its “rough” primary feather, from
which its common name has been derived. In adults the stiffened barbs of
the leading web of the outer primary feather lack terminal barbules. In males the barbs
are recurved into minute hooklets, and in the female they are prolonged into a
efinite, naked point that is little or not at all recurved. In males this produces
“a file-like roughness when the finger is drawn along the edge of the quill from base
toward tip” (Ridgway 1904). Early taxonomists were so taken with this characteristic that
they referred to it in both the genus and species portions of this bird’s scientific name.
The Greek appellation for the genus, Stelgidopteryx, is a combination of two words
meaning “scraper wing,” and the species name of serripennis, assigned by Audubon, is a
combination of two Latin words meaning “saw feather.” The possible adaptive significance
of this feature remains a mystery.

Copied from: De Jong, Michael J. 1996. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis),
The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology;
Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: