Ashy woodswallow

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The ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) belongs to the family of currawongs, butcherbirds and woodswallows, Artamidae.

The ashy woodswallow species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and south and southeast China. These woodswallow species have an exclusively Asian distribution. These woodswallows are monotypic species.

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

Ashy woodswallow - Overview

  • Scientific name: Artamus fuscus
  • Species author: Vieillot, 1817
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Artamus fuscus Vieillot, 1817
  • Family: Artamidae › Passeriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Ashy woodswallow, Chinese: 灰燕鵙, French: Langrayen brun, German: Grauschwalbenstar, Spanish: Artamo ceniciento, Russian: Пепельный ласточковый сорокопут, Japanese: ハイイロモリツバメ
  • Other names: Ashy Woodswallow, Ashy Swallow-shrike
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, south and southeast China
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, flying insects
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) is a medium-sized woodswallow, measuring 20 cm in length and weighing 35 to 40 grams.

The ashy woodswallow has dark slaty gray head with dark mask. The upperparts are ashy gray. The mantle has a maroon tinge. There is a narrow pale band on the rump. The underparts are pale pinkish gray.

The wings of the woodswallow are long and in flight appear very broad at the base. The first primary feather is very short. In a resting bird, the folded wings extend beyond the tail.

The tail of the woodswallow is short and square. The tail feathers are slaty black and are tipped white. The undertail and underwings are pale gray.

The bill is short, stout and finch-like. The bill is slightly curved and silvery blue in color. The irises are blackish brown. The gray legs are very short. The call of these woodswallow species is a repeated "chee-chee-chee" or harsh, shrill nasal "chewk..chewk" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus
1.Birds of India - Image of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus by Francesco Veronesi

Birds of India - Photo of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus
2.Indian birds - Picture of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus by 孫鋒 林

Indian birds - Image of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus
3.Birds of India - Photo of Ashy woodswallow - Artamus fuscus by J.M.Garg

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The ashy woodswallow species are distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and south and southeastern China.

In India, except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, these woodswallow species occur in all the states. In China, they are distributed in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Hainan, Guangdong and Fujian.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the ashy woodswallow species in Laos are Attapu Plain, Xe Sap, Eastern Bolikhamxay Mountains, Upper Xe Kaman, Nam Et, Upper Xe Bangfai and Phou Loeuy. The IBA in Cambodia is Boeung Veal Samnap.

The IBA of these ashy woodswallows in Nepal are, Barandabhar forests and wetlands, Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Bardia National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and Koshi Barrage, Chitwan National Park, Dang Deukhuri foothill forests and west Rapti wetlands.

Ecosystem and habitat

These ashy woodswallow species have low forest dependence. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 2000 meters.

The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these species include cultivated fields, pasturelands, palm groves and heavily degraded forests.

The natural ecosystems of these ashy woodswallow species include tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, evergreen forests, tropical and subtropical dry forests, open wooded country, moist montane forests and dry savanna.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the ashy woodswallow consists mainly of insects. Crickets, locust, grasshoppers, dragonflies, moths, mantids, stick insects, worms, grubs, airborne termites and ants and beetles are their primary food.

These ashy woodswallow may sit huddled side-by-side in groups on high vantage points and hawk flying insects in the air. They can glean insects from foliage and from trunk and branches. They also fly in circles in search prey.

In flight, these woodswallows catch the prey with bill, transferring it to the feet, tear it up before swallowing. They may also return to the perch with prey to feed.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the ashy woodswallow species is from March to July in India and Nepal. The laying season in Sri Lanka is from February to June.

These ashy woodswallows are monogamous and are strongly territorial. The breeding pair build a loose, shallow cup-shaped nest on a fork of a tree or at the base of the frond of a tall palm.

The nest is a shallow saucer of interwoven moss, cobwebs, fibres, rootlets and pieces of bark. The typical clutch contains three pale green eggs with brown spotting. Both the parents take turns to incubate the eggs.

The ashy woodswallow parents feed the young with worms and insects. The nestlings are entirely altricial, being naked and blind, requiring continuous parental care.

Migration and movement patterns

These ashy woodswallow species are generally resident birds. Nomadic movements have been observed due to weather conditions and abundance of food.

Post breeding, the juvenile woodswallows 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 ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be stable.

Throughout its range this woodswallow species is reported to be common to uncommon. The generation length is 5 years. Its distribution size is about 9,310,000

Habitat degradation and fragmentation, decline in insect populations due to indiscriminate use of pesticides are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these woodswallow species.

IUCN and CITES status

The ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) 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 IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the woodswallow species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Artamus fuscus
Species:A. fuscus
Binomial name:Artamus fuscus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
There are no geographic variations in the plumage of the ashy woodswallow (Artamus fuscus) and no subspecies have been designated.
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1.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 8/26/17
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: 孫鋒 林 | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 8/26/17
3.Image source:,_AP_W_IMG_7506.jpg (cropped)
Image author: J.M.Garg | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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