Saturday, November 26

Indian swiftlet

   ›      ›   Indian swiftlet - Aerodramus unicolor.

The Indian swiftlet (Aerodramus unicolor) is an aerial insectivorous bird belongs to the family of swifts, Apodidae. These swiftlet species are distributed in Sri Lanka and the South Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Indian swiftlet spends most of its life time flying, feeding and drinking on the wing. This swiftlet species is a monotypic species.

Indian swiftlet - Overview

  • Scientific name: Aerodramus unicolor
  • Species author: (Jerdon, 1840)
  • Synonyms: Hirundo unicolor Jerdon, 1840
  • Family: Apodidae › Apodiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Common Name: Indian swiftlet
  • Other languages: Chinese: 印度金丝燕, French: Salangane de Malabar German: Malabarsalangane Spanish: Salangana de Malabar, Russian: Индийская салангана, Tamil: Chinna Uzhavaran, Japanese: インドショクヨウアナツバメ
  • Other names: Indian Edible-nest Swiftlet,
  • Distribution: South Indian states, Sri Lanka
  • Diet and feeding habits: flies, sawflies, wasps, bees, cicadas, flying termites, flying ants, beetles, locust
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
Earlier, considering the geographical proximity, Aerodramus unicolor was thought to be conspecific with A. brevirostris (Himalayan swiftlet), A. fuciphagus (Edible-nest swiftlet), A. francicus (Mascarene swiftlet) and A. elaphrus (Seychelles swiftlet). Aerodramus unicolor is closely related to A. vanikorensis, A. inquietus, A. pelewensis, A. bartschi and A. salangana.


Appearance, physical description and identification

The swiftlet is a small, aerial, insectivorous bird, measuring 12 cm in length. These birds have shallow forked tail. These birds are dark brown on the upperparts and pale grayish brown on the underparts. In flight they give crescent appearance. They have very short legs, which are used for clinging to vertical surfaces of caves.

The distinguishing feature of these swiftlets is that they use echolocation for navigating in darkness within the breeding and roosting caves. They make echolocating double clicks sounds which are audible to humans. Most of the time they are aerial, feeding and drinking on the wing.
Image of swiftlet - Aerodramus unicolor
Image of Aerodramus unicolor
Image of Indian swiftlet - Aerodramus unicolor
Image of Indian swiftlet - Aerodramus unicolor

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These swiftlet species are distributed in Sri Lanka and the South Indian states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Ecosystem and habitat

These swiftlet species inhabit submontane forests, rocky hills and hillside forests with suitable cave systems for roosting and nesting.

Diet and feeding habits

These swiftlets are insectivorous and catch their prey-feed as they fly. Their diet usually consists of flies, sawflies, wasps, bees, cicadas, flying termites, flying ants, beetles, locust, grasshoppers, airborne spiders and butterflies. They are exceptionally agile in flight and drink by skimming the water surface while flying.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the swiftlet species is from March to June in South Indian ranges. The nest is constructed by the male by binding twigs, feathers and straw with strands of its gummy saliva, which is the main component. The shiny half-cup nest is stuck to the vertical cave walls. Usually the clutch has two eggs. They may raise a second brood, if nest harvesting has not occurred.

Migration and movement patterns

These swiftlet species are non-migratory resident birds. They roost, breed and nest in cave systems. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the Indian swiftlet has not been quantified. The overall population size is considered to be stable. These species have large range and population. They occur in great numbers in Sri Lanka and the cave systems in the Western Ghats mountains. The excess collection of their nests for 'bird's nest soup' puts pressure on the swiftlet populations.

These swiftlet species does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable neither under the population trend criterion nor under the population size criterion. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the Indian swiftlet species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Aerodramus unicolor
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Apodiformes
Family:Apodidae
Subfamily:-
Genus:Aerodramus
Species:A. unicolor
Binomial name:Aerodramus unicolor
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Swiftlet_in_Thattekad,_Kerala,_India.jpg
Image author: Kannan AS | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Swiftlet_in_flight,_Thattekad,_Kerala.jpg
Image author: Kannan AS | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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