Welcome swallow – Hirundo neoxena

Of the five species of swallows found in Australia (counting vagrants) the Welcome swallow is the most widely distributed and well-known.

These birds are a common site in parks, forests, urban environments and gardens. They are found almost everywhere except for the most heavily forested and arid areas. With their swept wings and deeply forked tails Welcome swallows are very fast flyers and able to wheel and turn very quickly. This of course greatly assists them in the pursuit of insects. Grassy fields and bodies of water are two of their favoured locations for finding insects.

They are also well known for the mud nests they build under eaves and in protected man-made areas. They nest from spring to early summer, and one breeding pair will return to the same nest many years in a row. The hen lays 2 to 5 eggs and upon hatching the chicks make a memorable site with their bright yellow mouths begging to be fed by the parents. The nests are built either singly or in colonies, and likewise the birds will roost in either small groups or large colonies. This can create a problem in urban areas with the large amount of droppings that can accumulate under their roosting locations.

Welcome swallows are partial migrants with some, but not all birds, from south-eastern Australia migrating to northern Australia during autumn and winter each year. In the 1920’s Welcome swallows successfully established themselves in New Zealand, and it is believed they migrated there naturally, rather than being introduced. For more on these beautiful birds see birdbites.com.au and the Bird Bites facebook and youtube channels.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 18th of December 2023