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Purple Needletails

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The Purple Needletail (Hirundapus celebensis) is the largest swift found in the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe).

Distribution / Range

This species is distributed from northeastern Sulawesi through the Philippine islands of Luzon, Mindoro, Marinduque, Catanduanes, Calayan, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Leyte, Biliran, Mindanao and Basilan.

This bird lives in various forests and open country. They may found in the lowlands or in hills, from 150-2000 m (500-6600 ft) high in elevation.


These are huge swifts, measuring on average about 25 cm (10 inches) long and weighing from 170 to 203 grams (6-7.2 oz). Only the White-naped Swift rival this species for size. The overall plumage is mostly uniform blackish, with a whitish loral marking. This species has the large size, white horseshoe-shaped underside-marking, and the subtly-needled tail typical of the needletails. Compared to other needletails, it is extremely dark and is the only one without a pale throat patch.

Few detailed descriptions of the life history of the Purple Needletail are known. It is a gregarious species, probably never leaving a group of at least 20 birds. The large size of these swifts is said to be apparent ever from a distance. It is believed to take any kind of large, flying insect; sometimes even hanging around bee-farms to pick off members of a hive.

The breeding habits are unknown, although it is thought that this is a cave-nesting bird.

The voice is also unknown.


The commonality of this species is not really known. They are thought to be scarce to uncommon through most of their range, but are not endangered and can be numerous in some parts of the Philippines.


  • Chantler and Driessens, Swifts ISBN 1-873403-83-6

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