Friday, 28 January 2011

White-throated needletail

Hirundapus caudacutus

Photo by Johan Stenlund (PBase)

Common name:

Order Apodiformes
Family Apodidae

They breed in Asia, from central and south-eastern Siberia and Mongolia, east to coastal Russia, northern Japan and sorth-eastern China. A separate population breeds in south-western China and the Himalayas in northern India and Pakistan. The wintering areas mostly lay in eastern Australia, with some birds also staying in New Zealand, Papua New-Guinea and south-east Asia.

The white-throated needletail is 20-22 cm long and has a wingspan of 43-48 cm. They weigh 100-140 g.

This species breeds in wooded lowlands and sparsely vegetated hills, as well as mountains covered with coniferous forests. They forage aerially, at heights up to cloud level, above a wide variety of habitats ranging from heavily treed forests to open habitats, such as farmland, heathland or mudflats, though they sometimes forage much closer to the ground in open habitats. They sometimes forage over recently disturbed areas, such as forest that has been recently cleared or burnt, or above paddocks as they are being ploughed or slashed. They often forage in areas of updraughts, such as ridges, cliffs or sand-dunes or in the smoke of bush fires, or in whirlwinds.

They mostly take insects and spiders in flight. Among their insect prey are beetles, cicadas, wasps, flies, moths, locusts, ants and termites.

White-throated needletails breed in May-June. Both parents take equal part in the breeding process. The nest is placed in a vertical hollow in a tall coniferous tree or on a vertical rock-face, either comprising a small bracket or half-cup of thin twigs and straw cemented together by the bird's saliva and glued to the side of the hollow or rock, or a shallow scrape among debris accumulated at the bottom of a tree hollow. The female lays 2-7 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 21 days. The chicks fledge after 40–42 days.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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