Sunday, April 07, 2013

Swifts (Phylum Chordata: Order Apodiformes) of Singapore

Swifts (phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, superclass Tetrapoda, class Aves, order Apodiformes) are birds with long, scythe-like wings, short beaks, and often forked tails. They make the fastest powered flights among all flying animals, and usually catch their insect prey on the wing.

Singapore has more than 10 species of swifts and the related treeswifts. However, as they are in flight most of the time when seen, I have very limited photos of them. Here are two of the photos that I managed to capture, with the second one taken in Malaysia.

Swiftlet (Aerodramus sp.)
The above could be a Black-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus maxima) or German's Swiftlet (Aerodramus germani). Both are about 12cm long, with pale underparts but slightly darker belly. The tail of the former is more squarish, while the latter's is slightly forked. It is, however, hard to tell them apart most of the time. It is easier to tell them apart by their nests - the ones made by the Black-nest Swiftlet appear darker due to the feathers incorporated inside, while those of the Germain's Swiftlet do not have feathers in them. The nests of both species, called bird's nests commercially, are mostly made up of the birds' dried saliva. They are very much valued by the Chinese as they are believed to have numerous health values when consumed, usually in the form of bird's nest soup.

Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta)
The Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta) is a rare resident species. This is the smallest swiftlet found in Singapore, growing to about 10cm. It has a white belly and a blackish back with a bluish-green gloss. The nest is made up of plant fibre glued with saliva, and hence is not collected for consumption. The above photo was taken in Malaysia.

  • Briffett, C. 1986. A guide to the common birds of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Robson, C. 2010. New Holland field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland Publishers. 304 pp.
  • Singapore Birds. Retrieved Mar 25, 2013,
  • Strange, M. 2000. Photographic guide to the birds of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Periplus. 398 pp.

No comments: