Welcome Swallow Fact File
The welcome swallow is a small bird with a glossy blue-black across the crown and upper back while the wings and tail are a dull-blackish brown. On the face and throat along with the forehead they are colored a bright chestnut. Their underside if light grey.
A leucistic individual of this species has been sighted.
Running out from the tail are streamers giving it a forked appearance when they are at rest. At the edges the tail has white streaks on top.
Appears similar in appearance to the closely related barn swallow but can be distinguished as the barn swallow has a black stripe between the head and body coloration.
They have a short, black colored beak. The eye is colored dark brown and the legs are brown.
Their body measures up to 15cm (6in) long with an average weight of just 10g (0.4oz).
The welcome swallow is an insectivore. They feed on a wide range of insects which are caught in flight. On the borders of the bill they have short bristles which help to guide prey in to the mouth.
Feeding is undertaken in large flocks if food is in large supply.
They will eat their own body weight in food each day as they have a fast metabolism and use lots of energy.
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Australia is the native home of the welcome swallow while they have self introduced to New Zealand over a century ago. Vagrant populations are found in New Guinea and New Caledonia.
In Australia they are found across much of the continent taking in every state and territory but are less common in the north than the south.
The wide range of the welcome swallow means they live in a number of habitats including grasslands, wetlands and coastal habitats. As humans have expanded their habitat they can be found living near humans and will attach their nests to buildings.
Only two main habitat types appear to be avoided which is heavy forests and moist arid or desert areas.
Pairs often make use of the same nest site year after year. Breeding will take place from August to February.
Their cup-shaped nest is placed on the side of cliffs or buildings and is formed of mud and plant matter. The pair work together for several days to build this nest. Animals hairs, grass and feathers may be used to create a soft bottom to the nest.
In to the nest between 4 and 6 eggs will be deposited. Incubation takes 21 days and fledging occurs after just two to three weeks.
If a chick is orphaned by its parents they may be adopted by another pair.
Inside the nest the welcome swallow has a wide range of diseases to contend with and as such young have as many as four times white blood cells as adults to help them survive.
Pairs may raise up to two broods each season.
Much of their day is spent in flight only resting to sleep and mate.
These animals only use their nest during the breeding season.
Welcome swallows are partially migratory and will move around as a response to the availability of food.
Their call is a twittering, soft warble or a sharp whistle when they are alarmed.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the welcome swallow include snakes and birds of prey such as hawks.
Introduced species such as cats also pose a threat.
Diseases pose a further threat to their survival.
Their name was given to them by sailors as they were often on of the first sights before they reached land giving them a ‘welcome.’
By Andrew Mercer – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82372772
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By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30114311
By patrickkavanagh – https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_k59/49641420618/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89386573
BirdLife International. 2017. Hirundo neoxena (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22712294A118754829. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22712294A118754829.en. Downloaded on 20 March 2021.
Crew, B., 2021. This fat little circle builds a nest to die for – Australian Geographic. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/creatura-blog/2018/02/the-fluffy-australian-swallow-bird/> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
Wildlife.rottnestisland.com. 2021. Rottnest Island Wildlife | Welcome Swallow. [online] Available at: <https://wildlife.rottnestisland.com/land/fauna/welcome-swallow> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
Birdsinbackyards.net. 2021. Welcome Swallow | BIRDS in BACKYARDS. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Hirundo-neoxena> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
The Australian Museum. 2021. Welcome Swallow. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/welcome-swallow/> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
Wiresnr.org. 2021. Welcome swallows. [online] Available at: <http://www.wiresnr.org/swallows.htm> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
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