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An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 29 Welcome Swallow
  2. 29_0 Photo by Alan Collins
  3. Welcome_swallow_juvenile_by_peter_feats-cropped Juvenile Welcome Swallow by Peter Feats

Welcome Swallow

Hirundo neoxena

Appearance

  • Colour: metallic blue-black on top and light to dark grey on its breast and belly. Its forehead, throat and upper breast are rust in colour. It has grey legs and feet, and its eyes and bill are black. A young Welcome Swallow has shorter tail feathers than an adult and its forehead and throat are a creamy beige (instead of rust).
  • Distinctive feature: a deeply forked tail with a white band or row of spots on the long tail feathers.
  • Size: about 15 cm long (to the tip of the tail). 

Behaviour

  • Call: a mixture of twittering and soft warbling notes, with a sharp alarm whistle.
  • Diet: a range of insects which it catches on the wing. Welcome Swallows feed in large flocks when there are many insects around.
  • Flight: swift and undulating.
  • Breeding: readily breeds close to human habitation. Its nest is an open cup of mud and grass, made by both the male and female. It is attached to a vertical structure, such as a rock wall or building, and is lined with feathers and fur. The female lays three to five eggs and she incubates them, although both parents feed the young birds. There are often two broods in a season. 

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Bird on chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Bird feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth.

When To Look

  • From August to March
  • Breeding occurs from August through February
  • Eggs are laid any time between August and February
  • Eggs hatch two to three weeks after being laid
  • Young birds leave the nest when they are two to four weeks old. 

Where To Look

  • Throughout Australia, except in the more heavily forested regions and drier inland areas. It will travel widely in search of food and is particularly common near fresh water.
  • It is less common in far northern Australia
  • Nests are often found on vertical walls or buildings and the birds can be seen on wires, posts and other suitable perches.

Welcome Swallow occurrence - ALA

References

Higgins PJ, Peter JM and Cowling SJ (eds) 2006. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 7, Part A. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Pizzey, G & Knight, F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Schodde, R & Tidemann, SC (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.

Strahan, R (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney

Both C, Artemyev AV, Blaauw B, Cowie RJ, Dekhuijzen AJ, Eeva T, Enemar A, Gustafsson L, Ivankina EV, Jarvinen A, Metcalfe NB, Nyholm NEI, Potti J, Ravussin P, Sanz JJ, Silverin B, Slater FM, Sokolov LV, Torok J, Winkel W, Wright J, Zang H, and Visser ME 2004. Large-scale geographical variation confirms that climate change causes birds to lay earlier. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 271: 1657–1662. 

Hughes, L 2003. Climate change and Australia: Trends, projections and impacts. Austral Ecology 28: 423–443.

Walther G, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC, Fromentin J, Hoegh-Guldberg O, and Bairlein F 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416: 389–395.

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    • Barn Swallow: has a dark blue to black breast-band across its throat, separating its red chin from its white chest and underparts. In flight, the front edges on the underside of its wings are white, but on a Welcome Swallow they are grey.
    • Another swallow: wouldn’t have the Welcome Swallow’s rust-coloured forehead and throat. The White-backed Swallow has a white back and pale-grey head, and the Red-rumped Swallow has a red rump and streaked, chestnut underparts.
    • Swift: is larger and has longer and more-curved wings, and rarely lands. Welcome Swallows are commonly seen sitting on perches.
    • Fairy Martin or Tree Martin: has a shorter, squarer tail, and white to buff coloured rump. 
  1. Did You Know?

    The outer tail feathers, known as streamers, are slightly shorter in the female than the male Welcome Swallow.

    Welcome Swallows often nest on verandahs, ledges, warehouses and sheds, where their droppings can create a nuisance or even a health hazard!

  1. Listen to the Call

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