White-throated Needletail

Hirundapus caudacutus

Although White-throated Needletails are not garden birds, their appearance is one of the highlights of late summer, as masses of these swifts sometimes fly over the region, generally ahead of storm fronts.

They are seen here later in the season than in coastal regions, presumably taking an inland route back towards their Asian breeding locations. Normally very few are seen in November and December, but numbers increase in January with a peak in March, after which virtually none is reported.

White-throated Needletails are often difficult to count, especially in large flocks in which individual birds spiral at high speed from the periphery to the centre and outwards again. Counts of more than 40 or 50 tend to be estimates. Even so, a very obvious difference in abundance exists between years.

Needletails have been reported each year but numbers vary greatly, probably reflecting weather patterns. Particularly high numbers were reported during 1981-82 and 1982-83 and again in 2002-03. R=58.