Friday, February 17

Brown-backed needletail

   ›      ›   Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus.

The brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) belongs to the family of swifts, swiftlets and needletails, Apodidae.

These needletail species are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The brown-backed needletail is a large swift. The tips of its rectrices are modified into needle like projections. There are two recognized subspecies of these needletails.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Brown-backed Needletail Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Brown-backed needletail - Overview

  • Scientific name: Hirundapus giganteus
  • Species author: (Temminck, 1825)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Cypselus giganteus Temminck, 1825
  • Family: Apodidae › Apodiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Brown-backed needletail, Chinese: 褐背针尾雨燕, French: Martinet géant, German: Eilsegler, Spanish: Vencejo gigante, Russian:Большой колючехвост, Japanese: オオハリオアマツバメ, Indonesian: Burung Kapinis-jarum Gedang
  • Other names: Giant Needletail, Giant Spinetail Swift
  • Distribution: India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei
  • Diet and feeding habits: flying insects
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) is closely related to purple needletail (Hirundapus celebensis). The two recognized subspecies of brown-backed needletail are: Hirundapus giganteus indicus (A. O. Hume, 1873) and Hirundapus giganteus giganteus (Temminck, 1825).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) is a large swift, measuring about 25 cm in length and weighing about 120 to 170 grams.

The overall plumage of brown-backed needletail is brownish black and the undertail is white. The white patch extends to the flanks. The legs are very short, used only for clinging to vertical surfaces. They spend most of their lives flying.

These needletail species have bulky spindle shaped body, broad protruding head and short tail with prominent needle-like rectrix spines. Their call is a distinctive high-pitched twittering sound.
Indian birds - Image of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus
Birds of India - Picture of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus
Birds of India - Photo of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus
Indian birds - Image of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus by Francesco Veronesi
Indian birds - Picture of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus
Birds of India - Photo of Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus by markaharper1

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The brown-backed needletail species are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

The needletail subspecies H. g. indicus is distributed in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the southwest India. In the northeast India, these subspecies are distributed in the states of Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura.

The brown-backed needletail subspecies H. g. indicus occurs also in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, southeast Asia and Andaman Islands (India). The subspecies H. g. indicus winter in Malay Peninsula and Borneo. The subspecies H. g. giganteus is distributed in Malay Peninsula, Greater Sundas and Southwest Philippines.

Ecosystem and habitat

The brown-backed needletail species have moderate forest dependency. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 1800 meters. They inhabit natural forest and wetland ecosystems.

The habitats of these species include tropical and subtropical moist forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, tropical and subtropical montane forests, permanent freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these brown-backed needletail species is mostly air-borne insects. Insects like grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, moths, beetles, bees, wasps, flies and flying ants and termites are the primary food. They feed aerially. They prefer to forage in a swarm of insects.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these brown-backed needletail species is from February to April in Kerala, South India. They nest in rock crevices in cliffs and steep rock formations. The typical needletail clutch contains 3-5 eggs. The female incubates the eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The brown-backed needletail is a partially migrant bird.

The subspecies H. g. giganteus is a non-migrant resident bird in Malay Peninsula, Greater Sundas and south-western Philippines. The subspecies H. g. indicus is a migrant and winters in Malay Peninsula and Borneo.

Post breeding, the needletail juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) has not been quantified. The overall population size of these species is considered to be declining. Throughout its range it is reported to be generally common. The generation length is 8.5 years. Their distribution size is about 11,700,000 sq.km.

The brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion, or the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. Deforestation and loss of habitat are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these needletail species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the needletail species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Hirundapus giganteus
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Apodiformes
Family:Apodidae
Subfamily:-
Genus:Hirundapus
Species:H. giganteus
Binomial name:Hirundapus giganteus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
Popular posts


1.Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brown-backedNeedletail.jpg
Image author: TonyCastro | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/francesco_veronesi/16261167446/
Image author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2017/02/17)
3.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/16420772@N07/1846480771/
Image author: markaharper1 | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2017/02/17)
Current topic in Birds of India: Brown-backed needletail - Hirundapus giganteus.

Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.