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This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Hirundo subis. The current genus name refers to Procne (Πρόκνη), a mythological girl who was turned into a swallow to save her from her husband. She had killed their son to avenge the rape of her sister. The specific subis is Latin and refers to a type of bird that breaks eagles’ eggs it may have been applied to this species because of its aggression towards birds of prey when it is nesting. The species of this genus are very closely related, and some view the purple martin, gray-breasted martin, snowy-bellied martin, and southern martin, as a superspecies.
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