Silver-backed needletail

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The silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis) belongs to the family of swifts, Apodidae.

These needletail species are distributed in India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. The silver-backed needletail species are insectivorous birds. There are three recognized subspecies of these needletail species.

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

Silver-backed needletail - Overview

  • Scientific name: Hirundapus cochinchinensis
  • Species author: (Oustalet, 1878)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Chaetura cochinchinensis Oustalet, 1878
  • Family: Apodidae › Apodiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Silver-backed needletail, Chinese: 白背针尾雨燕, French: Martinet de Cochinchine, German: Graukehlsegler, Spanish: Vencejo de la Cochinchina, Russian: Серебристый стриж, Japanese: クロビタイハリオアマツバメ, Indonesian: Burung Kapinis-jarum Pantat-putih,
  • Other names: Cochinchina Spinetail Swift, Gray-throated Needletail, White-vented Needletail
  • Distribution: India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis) is closely related to white-throated needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus). The three recognized subspecies of silver-backed needletail are: H. c. rupchandi (Biswas, 1951), H. c. cochinchinensis (Oustalet, 1878) and H. c. formosanus (Yamashina, 1936).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis) is a large swift, measuring 20 cm in length and weighing about 75 to 85 grams. These needletail species have silvery back. These needletail species has a thickset spindle-shaped body. The tail is short squarish with rectrix spines.

The wings are long, pointed and narrow. The bill is black and the irises are blackish. The legs and feet are dark gray. The needletail call is a high-pitched twittering sound.
Silver-backed needletail - Hirundapus cochinchinensis
Birds of India - Image of Silver-backed needletail - Hirundapus cochinchinensis by Sergey Yeliseev

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The silver-backed needletail species are distributed in India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. In India, they are distributed in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram.

The silver-backed needletail subspecies H. c. rupchandi is distributed in Nepal. They winter in Java, Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia. The subspecies H. c. formosanus is distributed in Taiwan. Its wintering abode is not known.

The silver-backed needletail subspecies H. c. cochinchinensis is distributed in Nepal, northeast India, north Myanmar, south China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Wintering populations occur in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra and west Java).

Ecosystem and habitat

These silver-backed needletail species are moderately forest dependent. These species occur in altitudes from 0 - 3350 meters. They inhabit various natural forest ecosystems.

These silver-backed needletail species inhabit evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, tropical and subtropical forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowlands, open woodlands and montane forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these silver-backed needletail is mostly insects. They can hawk their prey in the air and also pick from the surface of water. Insects like aerial spiders, dragonflies, flies, ants, aphids, wasps and bees are their primary food.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding behavior of the silver-backed needletail species is not known.

Migration and movement patterns

The silver-backed needletail is partially migrant bird. Breeding populations occur in Nepal, Hainan (China) and Taiwan. These species migrate to Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra and west Java) for wintering. Native resident populations occur in northeast India (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur) and Myanmar.

Post breeding, the silver-backed 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 silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis) has not been quantified. The overall population size of these needletail species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be locally common to uncommon. The generation length is 8.5 years. Their distribution size is about 2,470,000

The silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The ongoing destruction of the habitat, is the main threat that may endanger the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the silver-backed 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 the silver-backed needletail (Hirundapus cochinchinensis).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Hirundapus cochinchinensis
Species:H. cochinchinensis
Binomial name:Hirundapus cochinchinensis
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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Image author: Sergey Yeliseev | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (as on 10-02-2017)
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