White-throated Needletails or Spine-tailed Swifts

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The White-throated Needletails (Hirundapus caudacutus), also known as Needle-tailed Swift or Spine-tailed Swift, is a large swift. It is one of the fastest-flying birds in flapping flight, being capable of speeds up to 170 km/h (105 mph).

These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces.

They build their nests in rock crevices in cliffs or hollow trees.

They never settle voluntarily on the ground and spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks.

Distribution / Range

These swifts breed in rocky hills in central Asia and southern Siberia. This species is migratory, wintering south to Australia.

It is a rare vagrant in Western Europe but has been recorded as far west as Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain.


The White-throated Needletail is a mid-sized bird, similar in size to the Alpine Swift, but a quite different build, with a heavier barrel-like body. They are black except for a white throat, white undertail, which extends onto the flanks, and a somewhat paler brown back.

The Hirundapus needle-tailed swifts get their name from the spiny end to the tail, which is not forked as in the Apus typical swifts.

White-throated Needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus), also known as Needle-tailed Swift or Spine-tailed Swift
Needtail Swift


  1. BirdLife International (2004). Hirundapus caudacutus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
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  3. [2] Retrieved on 10 June 2009
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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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