Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Australian swiftlet

Aerodramus terraereginae

Photo by Ian Montgomery (Birdway)

Common name:
Australian swiftlet (en); andorinhão-australiano (pt); salangane d'Australie (fr); salangana australiana (es); Südseesalangane (de)

Order Apodiformes
Family Apodidae

This species is endemic to Queensland, in north-eastern Australia, being found in the mainland and in a number of offshore islands in that region..

This small swift is 11-12 cm long and has a wingspan of 25-28 cm. They weigh 9-12 g.

Australian swiftlets are usually found over dry savanna but also seen over rainforest margin, pastures, beaches and gorges. They are mostly present near the coast and in offshore islands and tend to remain at altitudes below 500 m.

They take insects and drifting spiders in flight.

Australian swiftlets breed in October-March. They nest in colonies of hundreds of individuals, typically located in caves or sometimes amongst boulders. The nest is translucent and basket-shaped, and made from saliva mixed with grasses, casuarina needles, twigs and feathers. It is attached to the walls or ceiling of the cave, 2-20 m above the ground. There the female lays 2 successive clutches, each consisting of 1 egg, so that the incubation of the second egg is aided by warmth from the first chick and the parents can thus spend more time gathering food. Each egg is incubated by both parents for 26-27 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 45-51 days after hatching.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a relatively large breeding range. Although the global population size is yet to be quantified, the Australian swiftlet is described as common, particularly in the lowlands. Numbers are believed to be declining in several colonies, but overall this species is not considered threatened at present.

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