The Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is often the first bird we see when we get on board our boat… Several of them sit along our lifelines, twittering away, and true to their name, they welcome us. The crew on board have mixed views about this little visitor. Wade thinks they are “little poop machines”, Bengie the ship’s cat bleats disapprovingly when she sees them, but I like this tiny bird with acrobatic flying skill, so I am making it the star of our #15 Bird Photography Challenge.
What does it look like?
The Welcome Swallow just gleams in the sunshine. It has glossy blue-black upper parts, a light grey fluffy breast and belly, and russet forehead, throat and upper breast. Its tail is v-shaped and deeply forked, with a row of white spots on the long individual tail feathers. The outer tail feathers are called streamers, slightly longer than the others. The feet and legs are grey. The eyes and bill are black. It is a tiny bird weighing only 10 grams, with an average size of 15cms.
How does it behave?
The Welcome Swallow can be seen fluttering, swooping, gliding in search of flying insects, mosquitoes, moths, flies and midges which it catches on the wing. It is incredibly swift and agile, and so hard to photograph as it flies. Welcome Swallows feed in large flocks.
They readily breed close to human habitation. Their nest is an open cup of mud and grass lined with fur and feather and attached to a suitable vertical structure, like under bridges, the walls of buildings, or even the engine boxes of Take It Easy. Welcome Swallows often perch on wires or posts for a quick rest between graceful flights, living their calling card on the floor below, hence the nick name “little poop machines” on board our boat.
Did you know?
This dynamic little bird eats 400 times a day (every 2 minutes). It needs to eat its own body weight daily to maintain its health and energy. The Welcome Swallow’s prey is guided into the bird’s wide open mouth with the help of short bristles bordering the bill.
Where is it found?
The Welcome Swallow is native to Australia and widespread. Partially migratory, it moves around in response to food availability, but typically winters in Northern Australia. It lives in a wide variety of habitats such as farmland, paddocks, wetlands and grasslands. The photos were taken in Paynesville, in the Gippsland Lakes, using a Canon 60D and EF100-400 lens. Click on any photo in the gallery to display in full screen.