Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

White-throated needletail

In Thai: นกแอ่นใหญ่คอขาว, nok aen yai kho khaw

Binomial name: Hirundapus caudacutus, John Aubrey Clarendon Latham, 1802

The white-throated needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus), also known as needle-tailed swift or spine-tailed swift, is a large swift. It is the fastest-flying bird in flapping flight, with confirmed speeds reaching 111.6 km/h (69.3 mph). It is commonly reputed to reach velocities of up to 170 km/h (105 mph), though this has not been verified.

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.

These swifts breed in rocky hills in central Asia and southern Siberia. This species is migratory, wintering south in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. It is a rare vagrant in western Europe, but has been recorded as far west as Norway, Sweden and Great Britain. In June 2013, the bird was spotted in the United Kingdom, the first sighting in 22 years. This bird flew into a wind turbine and died; its body was sent to a museum.

The white-throated needletail is a mid-sized bird, similar in size to an Alpine swift, but a different build, with a heavier barrel-like body. They are black except for a white throat and white under-tail, which extends on to the flanks, and a somewhat paler brown back.

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

Hirundapus caudacutus

Common names

  • Thai: นกแอ่นใหญ่คอขาว, nok aen yai kho khaw

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Range Map

Distribution map of White-throated needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus in Thailand
Range map of Hirundapus caudacutus in Thailand