Welcome Swallow

Welcome Swallow 1Description

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.

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 & Reproduction

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 Welcome Swallow 2rock 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 th