The Australian Swiftlet (Aerodramus terraereginae) is a small bird endemic to Queensland, Australia particularly in the tropical north east regions.
There are two subspecies of the Swiftlet: the Chillagoe Swiftlet (A. t. chillagoensis) and A. t. terraereginae which are sometimes regarded as two separate species.
Like other Aerodramus Swiftlets, this species is often placed in the Genus: Collocalia.
Use the information below to find out more about the Australian Swiftlet’s characteristics, habitat, diet, behaviour and reproduction.
Australian Swiftlet Characteristics
The Australian Swiftlet measures 11 – 12 centimetres in length, weighs 10.5 – 12.5 grams and has a wingspan of around 11 centimetres.
Australian Swiftlets are generally uniform grey with some having dark brown upperparts, pale grey/brown underparts, sometimes looking almost white in the sun, and pale rumps. They have a forked tail and narrow wings for fast flight. Their beak is small and they have a wide gape surrounded by bristles adapted for catching insects in flight.
Swiftlets have short legs which prevent the birds from perching, however, it allows them to cling to vertical surfaces. They have four toes on each feet. Swiftlets have small breast muscles and very long primary flight feathers adapted for their main flying technique which is gliding.
Australian Swiftlet Habitat
The Australian Swiftlet can be found around tropical coastal areas and offshore islands occurring 1,000 metres above sea level but more commonly below 500 metres. It tends to forage in flocks over the edge of the Rainforests, beaches and gorges and sometimes pastures and savannas.
Australian Swiftlet Diet
The Australian Swiftlet is an insectivore and a flight feeder who preys on insects and floating spiders. It typically feeds during the day and within 30 kilometres of the breeding colony, returning to the caves at night to roost.
Australian Swiftlet Behaviour
The Australian Swiflet has a high pitched call when in flight. During breeding season, it can be heard uttering a metallic clicking call.
Australian Swiflets have the ability to use a simple but effective form of echolocation to navigate in total darkness through the chasms and shafts of the caves where they roost at night and breed during the breeding season.
These birds also emit a series of low clicks followed by a call when approaching the nests, probably to warn nearby birds out of their way.
Australian Swiftlet Reproduction
The Australian Swiftlet’s breeding season occurs from October to March. These small coastal birds nest in colonies which contain hundreds of individuals in coastal caves or around boulders and rocks.
Australian Swiftlets are monogamous, which means they pair for life. Males perform aerial displays to attract females and mating occurs at the nest. Nests are usually constructed inside caves and are attached to the cave walls or ceilings and can be up to 20 metres off the ground. The nests are generally basket-shaped and semitransparent and made from a grasses, twigs, casuarina needles and feathers mixed together with the bird’s saliva.
The female lays two clutches each containing one single dull, white egg. The first egg is incubated by both parents for around 26 – 27 days. The second egg is also incubated and is aided by the warmth of the first hatched chick.
The parents leave the nest for periods of 30 minutes at a time to hunt for food for themselves and the chicks. The young fledge around 51 days after hatching.
Australian Swiftlet Conservation Status
There is no data on the conservation status of the Australian Swiftlet.