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 Hirundiniae, 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. The 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 species are long-distance migrants. 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.