Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Brown-backed needletail

Thai: นกแอ่นใหญ่หัวตาขาว, nok aen yai hua taa khaw

Binomial name: Hirundapus giganteus, Coenraad Jacob Temminck, 1825

The brown-backed needletail (Hirundapus giganteus), or brown needletail, is a large swift.

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

These swifts are resident breeders in hill forests in southern Asia from India east to Indonesia and the Philippines.

They build their nests in rock crevices in cliffs, laying 3-5 eggs. The flight is impressively fast, even compared to other swifts.

The brown-backed needletail is a very large swift, and at 23 cm is bigger than the Alpine swift and the white-throated needletail. It has a similar build to the latter species, with a heavy barrel-like body. They are dark brown except for a white undertail, which extends on to the flanks.

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

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Apodiformes
Family
Apodidae
Genus
Hirundapus
Species
Hirundapus giganteus

Common names

  • Thai: นกแอ่นใหญ่หัวตาขาว, nok aen yai hua taa khaw

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

No photo for this species yet

Distribution map of Brown-backed needletail, Hirundapus giganteus in Thailand

Range map of Hirundapus giganteus in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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