White-throated Needletail Click to enlarge image
White-throated Needletail Image: Roland Speck
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    caudacutus
    Genus
    Hirundapus
    Family
    Apodidae
    Order
    Apodiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Phylum
    Chordata
  • Size Range
    Up to 21 cm.

Long curved wings, short square tail, white underneath and grey brown above.

Identification

This large swift has long curved wings and white markings. The plumage is predominantly grey-brown, glossed with green and the wings are long and pointed. The tail is short and square, with the protruding feather shafts giving a spiky appearance. The throat and undertail is white.

Habitat

Almost exclusively aerial; over a wide variety of habitats.

Distribution

Eastern and Northern Australia.



Seasonality

Non-breeding migrants to Australia, arriving from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere in October each year and leaving between May and August. Able to fly at speeds of up to 130 km per hour. An aerial bird, and for a time it was commonly believed that they did not land while in Australia. It has now been observed that birds will roost in trees, and radio-tracking has since confirmed that this is a regular activity.

Feeding and diet

Feeds on flying insects, such as termites, ants, beetles and flies. It catches the insects in flight in their wide beaks. Birds usually feed in rising thermal currents associated with storm fronts and bushfires and they are commonly seen moving with wind fronts. While feeding, it protects its eyes with a special membrane and a small ridge of feathers.