Brown-backed Needletails or Brown Needletails

Brown-backed Needletail (Hirundapus giganteus), or Brown Needletail

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The Brown-backed Needletails (Hirundapus giganteus), or Brown Needletails, are large resident swifts that occur naturally in hill forests in southern Asia from India east to Indonesia and the Philippines.

They never appear to settle on the ground, but instead spend most of their lives in the air. They are fast flyers, even compared to other swifts.

Breeding / Nesting

They typically nest in rock crevices in cliffs. The average clutch consists of 3 - 5 eggs.


The Brown-backed Needletails are very large swifts with a barrel-like body, averaging t 23cm in length. They are larger than Alpine Swifts and White-throated Needletails. They get their name from the spiny end to the tail, which is not forked as in the Apus typical swifts.

The plumage is mostly dark brown except for a white undertail, which extends on to the flanks.

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


They feed on the insects caught in flight.

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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