Welcome swallow

The welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family.

It is a species native to Australia and nearby islands, and self-introduced into New Zealand in the middle of the twentieth century.[2] It is very similar to the Pacific swallow with which it is often considered conspecific.

This species breeds in southern and eastern Australia in a variety of habitats, mostly in open areas, man made clearings or urban environments, but not desert or dense forest.[3] Eastern populations are largely migratory, wintering in northern Australia. Western birds and those in New Zealand are mainly sedentary.

Welcome swallow
Hirundo neoxena risdon
Risdon Brook Park in Tasmania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Hirundo
Species:
H. neoxena
Binomial name
Hirundo neoxena
(Gould, 1842)

Taxonomy

The welcome swallow was first described by John Gould in The birds of Australia[4] as a member of the genus Hirundo, but the first publication is often incorrectly given as in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London.[5][6] Both its species name and common name refer to people welcoming its return as a herald of spring in southern parts of Australia.[5]

Description

The welcome swallow is a small size bird and is fast-flying. Their flying style is circular in pattern with swift darting motions. They have graceful shape and flight, moreover they often fly singly, in couples or in clusters.[7] The welcome swallow is metallic blue-black above, light grey below on the breast and belly, and rusty on the forehead, throat and upper breast. It has a long forked tail, with a row of white spots on the individual feathers. These birds are about 15 cm (5.9 in) long, including the outer tail feathers which are slightly shorter in the female. The welcome swallow's weight is about 9-20g. From the Gould collection in Tasmania a “natural size” male had a wing size of 11.1 cm, tail size of 7.4 cm, and a culmen of 0.7 cm. While the female has 10.9 cm wings, a 6.25 cm tail, and a culmen of 0.7 cm.[8] The call is a mixture of twittering and soft warbling notes, and a sharp whistle in alarm. However, their call is normally quiet and does not carry very far.[7]

Young welcome swallows are buffy white, instead of rufous, on the forehead and throat, and have shorter tail streamers.

Distribution and habitat

The winter range in northern Australia overlaps with that of wintering barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), but the latter is readily separable by its blue breast band.[9] Welcome swallows readily breed close to human habitation. Swallows are a commonly found on wires, posts and other perches.[10]

Natural global range

Welcome swallows have a very large distributional range because they are a cross regional species.[7] Welcome swallows live mostly in the eastern, western, southern and central Australia. The welcome swallows that live in eastern Australia move to northern Australia in winter. The welcome swallows that live in Western Australia and others live in New Zealand almost are not migratory.[11] This swallow species has been observed nesting in the majority of New Zealand and its surrounding islands, Australia and some parts of Tasmania.[12] Currently, this species has been recorded in New Guinea, New Caledonia and other surrounding islands. The distribution of the welcome swallow also depends on seasonal change. During the winter, the welcome swallow in Australia will move towards the north which places it closer to the equator and warm weather. For the following spring, they will return to the southern Australia to breed.[11]

New Zealand range

The welcome swallow is a self-introduced species from Australia that is believed to have flown over to New Zealand in the early 1900s.[7] The welcome swallow is found throughout most parts of New Zealand, but are very rare in Fiordland.[7] The shape of New Zealand is narrow and long, which helped the birds to easily get to areas near water. They are also on Chatham and Kermadec Islands and in some instances have been seen on Campbell Island, Auckland Island and the Snares.[7]

Habitat preferences

Although the swallows are more often near coastal and wetland areas, they can live in almost all types of habitat except alpine areas and very dense forest.[7] The welcome swallow has been documented as being seen in open areas such as farmlands, grasslands, partly cleared areas that are wooded, lands associated with bodies of water such as lakes or reservoirs, and along the coast lines.[12] This species is well adapted for urban and suburban life as well, it is even able to live in high altitude areas due to the provision of nesting materials provided by humans.[12] During winter, the swallows will move to the warmer habitat which can provide them enough food and safe shelters.[13]

Life cycle and reproduction

Swallow chicks444
Chicks the day after fledging

The welcome swallow once it reaches maturity has a long breeding period. These swallows have a monogamous social structure and a breeding period that lasts from August until March.[7] The nest is an open cup of mud and grass, made by both sexes, and is attached to a structure, such as a vertical rock wall or building. It is lined with feathers and fur, and three to five eggs are laid. Two broods are often raised in a season.The nest height ranges from 0.5 metres to 13.5 metres.[7] One particular study showed that the nests that were the highest tended to have a higher fledgling success rate possibly due to the inability of mammals to access the nests.[14] Nesting sites can be a variety of areas and have been documented to be from urban and suburban areas to rural areas. Buildings, moveable boats and ferries, hollowed out trees, caves and cliffs, mine tunnels and shafts, as well as underground water tanks have all been observed areas of nesting swallows.[12] Swallows build the cup-shape nests connecting to vertical rock walls or buildings to avoid sunlight.[11] Nests on average take 8–23 days to build, and are often re-used for consecutive years of breeding. Swallows often go back to their old nests for the next year to breed.[13] Welcome Swallows always work as a flock. When breeding, they usually work in pairs but often small loose groups to protect their nest and territory especially against predatory birds.[7] The number of successful broods can vary year to year; however, the maximum number of broods recorded is three. Each brood or clutch can range from two to seven eggs with an average of four.[7] However, during the beginning of a breeding season, clutch sizes have been known to be bigger, where towards the end of breeding season clutch sizes may be smaller.[15] Eggs are generally lain in twenty-four- to forty-eight-hour intervals, however, one nest can have multiple clutches because the parent pair may abandon a nest if the clutch size is too small and then another pair will lay their eggs within that same nest.[12] Eggs are generally 18 mm in length and 13mm in width with a pink colour and brown speckles.[7] Male welcome swallows do not participate in the incubation of the eggs. Rather they forage while the female incubates, and when the female forages either watches the nest for a short period or accompanies the female in foraging.[15]

The female alone incubates the eggs, which hatch after two to three weeks. The young are fed by both parents, and leave the nest after a further two to three weeks. Males have been known to remove faecal sacks after coaxing the cloaca of the young to dispose of them as well.[15] The fledglings stay in the nest from 18 to 23 days and become completely independent around 35 days. However, they don’t start breeding until 8 months to 14 months of age.[7] Although the swallows are monogamous more than just the breeding pair may take care of the young. Also, many swallows may live within the nest like during non-breeding periods where colonies will roost together in large numbers.[7] Welcome swallows are good indicators of temperature, as the temperature drops lower, the less likely a swallow will be observed in the South. When swallows are around, the temperature usually does not drop below -2/-3 degree Celsius.[7] Migration may occur during non-breeding seasons for larger more reliable food sources. These distance may be quite large as well during winter when food is not readily available.[7] Individuals in this species have been known to live up to 6 years creating up to three broods a year during breeding season.[7]

Food and feeding

These birds are extremely agile fliers, which feed on insects while in flight. They often fly fast and low to the ground on open fields in large circles or figure eight patterns. They will often swoop around animals or people in the open. Males and females tend to forage together during breeding season even with fledglings within the nest.[15] Welcome swallows do show a habit of drinking water while flying, they do this by scooping water within their bills from lake and pond surfaces.[7] This is because welcome swallows need to drink water frequently, which allows it to catch insects in the water as well.[7] Welcome swallows also can cooperate with other birds or companions to drive the insects together.[11] It can remember the insects’ activity routines to make its foraging be more efficient.

Predators, parasites and diseases

The hawk, snake, mink and wild cat are the main predators that hunt welcome swallows.[16] Especially in Australia, the snakes are the most dangerous predators for the birds. Snakes can climb trees to reach the nests and eat the eggs or young birds. According to one New Zealand study the only time a nest failed was from disturbing the nest during the incubation period, these instances were from humans, mammals such as mustelids, and black birds preying upon the eggs.[15] In swallow’s excreta, there are various kinds of bacteria and parasites.[13] The nests tend to breed all kinds of bacteria and parasites causing very severe diseases, for example: histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis, toxoplasmosis, etc. Hatchlings depend on maternal antibodies and immunity provided by the yolk sac within the egg.[17] Although no specific parasites were found, swallows are known as colonial breeders and are at a high risk for parasites, which may be a cause of lower breeding success but an increase in immune responsiveness.[17] Another disease that not only effects the poultry business, but also the welcome swallow is fowlpox.[18] This virus has two forms cutaneous (mild harm) and diphtheritic (deadly), poultry is usually vaccinated for the virus, but wildlife is not.[18]

Cultural uses

The European swallows are regarded highly among ancient Greeks; they even held a festival to celebrate its arrival for each spring, since swallows are indicator of the incoming spring season. “One swallow does not a summer make”, is a pretty near literal translation of an ancient Greek proverb. In the ancient world, these birds are strongly interwoven with the narratives of household gods and are regarded as a presence of fortune. Conversely, harms or danger created upon welcome swallows are believed to bring evil into the household.[7]

Interesting facts

An interesting fact from a biological view indicates in recent studies it has been found welcome swallows have slow growing wings that are not affected by food intake unless they are starving. This may conclude that the welcome swallow prioritizes wing growth even when fasting for up to six hours at a time.[19] It is also believed that the swallow accumulates fat in order to survive time periods that food may be scarce or conditions may be bad. This method allows rapid growth when conditions are good and stable growth when conditions are bad.[19]

Various views and plumages

Swallows parents and three chicks444

Parents (left) and three chicks

Swallow chick perching444

Chick on the day it left the nest

Hirundo neoxena 8923

Mareeba wetlands, Atherton Tableland, Queensland, Australia

Welcome Swallows

At Bronte Lagoon, Tarraleah, Tasmania

Welcome Swallow - Cairns

Trinity inlet, Cairns

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Hirundo neoxena". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Edgar, A. T. (1966) Welcome Swallows in New Zealand, 1958-1965, Notornis 13(1): 27-60 http://notornis.osnz.org.nz/welcome-swallows-new-zealand-1958-1965
  3. ^ Davis, Danielle. "Welcome Swallow". Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  4. ^ Gould, John (December 1842). "Untitled [Mr. Gould exhibited and characterized the following thirty new species of Australian birds ...]". The birds of Australia. ix.
  5. ^ a b Gould, John (February 1843). "Untitled [Hirundo neoxena sp. nov.]". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 10: 131.
  6. ^ Mcallan, Ian A.W. (2004). "Corrections to the original citations and type localities of some birds described by John Gould and recorded from New Zealand" (PDF). Notornis. 51: 125–130.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Welcome swallow". New Zealand Birds Online. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  8. ^ Meyer, de Schauensee, R (1957). "On Some Avian Types, Principally Gould's, in the Collection of the Academy. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia". 109: 123–246.
  9. ^ Turner, Angela K; Rose, Chris (1989). Swallows & Martins: An Identification Guide and Handbook. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-51174-7.
  10. ^ "Welcome Swallow". Birds in Backyards. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d "Hirundo neoxena – Welcome Swallow". Encyclopedia of Life.
  12. ^ a b c d e Marchant, S.; Fullgar, P.J (1982). "Nest Records of the Welcome Swallow". Emu. 83 (2): 67–74. doi:10.1071/MU9830066.
  13. ^ a b c Higgins, P.J; Cowling, S.J (2006). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Volume 7: Boatbill to Starlings. Part A: Boatbill to Larks and Part B: Dunnock to Starlings. Oxford University Press. pp. 1517–1548.
  14. ^ Evans, K.; Tyler, C.; Blackburn, T.; Duncan, R. (2002). "Changes in the breeding biology of the Welcome Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) in New Zealand since colonisation". Emu. 103: 215220. doi:10.1071/MU02052.
  15. ^ a b c d e Tarburton, M. (1993). "A Comparison of the Breeding Biology of the Welcome Swallow in Australia and Recently Colonised New Zealand". Emu. 93: 34–43. doi:10.1071/MU9930034.
  16. ^ Oliver, L; Austin, J.I.; Arthur, S (1962). "Birds of the World": 216–218.
  17. ^ a b Sindik, L; Lill, A (2009). "Peripheral Blood Leukocyte Counts in Welcome Swallow Nestlings". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 45 (4): 1203–1207. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-45.4.1203.
  18. ^ a b Diallo, I.S; MacKenzie, M.A; Spradbrow, P.B; Robinson, W.F (1998). "Field Isolates of the Fowlpox Virus contaminated with the Reticuloendotheliosis Virus". Avian Pathology. 27: 60–66. doi:10.1080/03079459808419275.
  19. ^ a b Ashton, J; Armstrong, D (2002). "Facultative prioritization of wing growth in the Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena". Ibis. 144 (3): 470–477. doi:10.1046/j.1474-919X.2002.00077.x.
Atticora

Atticora is a genus of bird in the swallow family Hirundinidae. These species are found in South America.

It contains the following two species:

White-banded swallow (Atticora fasciata)

Black-collared swallow (Atticora melanoleuca)

Black-and-rufous swallow

The black-and-rufous swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

Fledge

Fledging is the stage in a flying animal's life between hatching or birth and becoming capable of flight.

This term is most frequently applied to birds, but is also used for bats. For altricial birds, those that spend more time in vulnerable condition in the nest, the nestling and fledging stage can be the same. For precocial birds, those that develop and leave the nest quickly, a short nestling stage precedes a longer fledging stage.All birds are considered to have fledged when the feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight. A young bird that has recently fledged but is still dependent upon parental care and feeding is called a fledgling. People often want to help fledglings, as they appear vulnerable, but it is best to leave them alone. The USA National Phenology Network defines the phenophase (or life cycle stage) of fledged young for birds as "One or more young are seen recently departed from the nest. This includes young incapable of sustained flight and young which are still dependent on adults."

In many species, parents continue to care for their fledged young, either by leading them to food sources, or feeding them. Birds are vulnerable after they have left the nest, but before they can fly, though once fledged their chances of survival increase dramatically.One species, the ancient murrelet, fledges two days after hatching, running from its burrow to the ocean and its calling parents. Once it reaches the ocean, its parents care for it for several weeks. Other species, such as guillemots and terns, leave the nesting site while they are still unable to fly. The fledging behavior of the guillemot is spectacular; the adult leads the chick to the edge of the cliff, where the colony is located, and the chick will then launch itself off, attempting to fly as far as possible, before crash landing on the ocean.

Forest swallow

The forest swallow (Petrochelidon fuliginosa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria.

Galápagos martin

The Galápagos martin (Progne modesta) is a species of bird in the Hirundinidae family, endemic to the Galápagos Islands.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, pastureland, and heavily degraded former forest.

Hill swallow

The hill swallow (Hirundo domicola) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It breeds in southern India and Sri Lanka. It is resident apart from some local seasonal movements. This bird is associated with coasts, but is increasingly spreading to forested uplands. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the Pacific swallow.

This species is a small swallow at 13 cm. It has a blue back with browner wings and tail, a red face and throat, and dusky underparts. It differs from barn swallow and the closely related welcome swallow in its shorter and less forked tail.The hill swallow builds a neat cup-shaped nest, constructed with mud pellets collected in the beak, under a cliff ledge or on a man-made structures such as a building, bridge or tunnel. The nest is lined with softer material, and the clutch is up to four eggs. Detailed studies on the breeding ecology of the species was conducted in Silent Valley National Park and Muthikkulam reserve forests of Kerala. It is similar in behaviour to other aerial insectivores, such as other swallows and the unrelated swifts. It is a fast flyer and feeds on insects, especially flies, while airborne.

Hirundo

The bird genus Hirundo is a group of passerines in the family Hirundinidae (swallows and martins). The genus name is Latin for a swallow. These are the typical swallows, including the widespread barn swallow. Many of this group have blue backs, red on the face and sometimes the rump or nape, and whitish or rufous underparts. With fifteen species this genus is the largest in its family.

Pacific swallow

The Pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It breeds in tropical southern Asia and the islands of the south Pacific. It is resident apart from some local seasonal movements. This bird is associated with coasts, but is increasingly spreading to forested uplands. The hill swallow was formerly considered conspecific.

This species is a small swallow at 13 cm. It has a blue back with browner wings and tail, a red face and throat, and dusky underparts. It differs from the barn swallow and the closely related welcome swallow in its shorter and less forked tail.The Pacific swallow builds a neat cup-shaped nest, constructed with mud pellets collected in the beak, under a cliff ledge or on a man-made structures such as a building, bridge or tunnel. The nest is lined with softer material, and the clutch is two to three eggs. It is similar in behaviour to other aerial insectivores, such as other swallows and the unrelated swifts. It is a fast flyer and feeds on insects, especially flies, while airborne.

Peruvian martin

The Peruvian martin (Progne murphyi) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. It is found in Peru and far norther Chile.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, pastureland, and urban areas. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Preuss's cliff swallow

Preuss's cliff swallow (Petrochelidon preussi), also known as Preuss's swallow, is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

Progne

Progne is a genus of birds. The 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.

Saw-wing

The saw-wings, Psalidoprocne, is a small genus of passerine birds in the swallow family. The common name of this group is derived from the rough outer edge of the outer primary feather on the wing, which is rough due to recurved barbs. The function of this is unknown. The birds are 11–17 cm long and black or black-and-white in colour. The genus has an African distribution and all species can be found foraging over forest and woodland.

Sinaloa martin

The Sinaloa martin (Progne sinaloae) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It breeds semicolonially in sheer cliff faces within pine-oak forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico. Presumed migrant records also come from Belize and Guatemala. It is assumed to winter in South America.

Southern martin

The southern martin (Progne elegans) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Argentina and southern Bolivia ; in winter it migrates to the western Amazon Basin.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, and urban areas.

Stelgidopteryx

Stelgidopteryx (Baird, 1858) is a small genus of swallows. It contains two species:

Adults of both species are brown on top with lighter underparts and a slightly forked tail. They nest in cavities but do not excavate their holes or form colonies.

These birds forage in flight over water or fields, usually flying low. They eat insects.

"Rough-winged" refers to the serrated edge feathers on the wing of this genus; this feature would only be apparent in the hand.

Swallow

The swallows, martins and saw-wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerine birds found around the world on all continents, including occasionally in Antarctica. Highly adapted to aerial feeding, they have a distinctive appearance. The term Swallow is used colloquially in Europe as a synonym for the barn swallow. There are around 90 species of Hirundinidae, divided into 19 genera, with the greatest diversity found in Africa, which is also thought to be where they evolved as hole-nesters. They also occur on a number of oceanic islands. A number of European and North American species are long-distance migrants; by contrast, the West and South African swallows are non-migratory.

This family comprises two subfamilies: Pseudochelidoninae (the river martins of the genus Pseudochelidon) and Hirundininae (all other swallows, martins and saw-wings). Within the Old World, the name martin tends to be used for the squarer-tailed species, and the name swallow for the more fork-tailed species; however, there is no scientific distinction between these two groups. Within the New World, "martin" is reserved for members of the genus Progne. (These two systems are responsible for the sand martin being called "bank swallow" in the New World.)

Tumbes swallow

The Tumbes swallow (Tachycineta stolzmanni) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in northwestern Peru and far southwestern Ecuador.

Its natural habitats are dry savanna, coastal saline lagoons, and arable land.

Swallows (family: Hirundinidae)

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