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It is a species native to Australia and nearby islands, and self-introduced into New Zealand in the middle of the twentieth century. 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. Eastern populations are largely migratory, wintering in northern Australia. Western birds and those in New Zealand are mainly sedentary.
The welcome swallow was first described by John Gould in The birds of Australia 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. Both its species name and common name refer to people welcoming its return as a herald of spring in southern parts of Australia.
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 (6 in) long, including the outer tail feathers which are slightly shorter in the female. The call is a mixture of twittering and soft warbling notes, and a sharp whistle in alarm.
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. Welcome swallows readily breed close to human habitation. Swallows are a commonly found on wires, posts and other perches.
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 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.
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.
Various views and plumages
- BirdLife International (2012). "Hirundo neoxena". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- 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
- Davis, Danielle. "Welcome Swallow". Retrieved 23 December 2010.
- Gould, John (December 1842). "Untitled [Mr. Gould exhibited and characterized the following thirty new species of Australian birds ...]". The birds of Australia ix.
- Gould, John (February 1843). "Untitled [Hirundo neoxena sp. nov.]". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 10: 131.
- 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". Notornis 51: 125–130.
- Turner, Angela K; Rose, Chris (1989). Swallows & Martins: An Identification Guide and Handbook. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-51174-7.
- "Welcome Swallow". Birds in Backyards. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
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