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Warou - Welcome Swallow (Hirundo tahitica neoxena) | by Steve Attwood
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Warou - Welcome Swallow (Hirundo tahitica neoxena)

I spent ages trying to get a good shot of this bird in the air as it flew to and from it's perch on a jetty light at Zealandia. Alas all were either fuzzy or beautifully clear bits of birds just leaving the screen! So I had to content myself with this still shot.

These are a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It is a species native to Australia and nearby islands, but not until recently to New Zealand, which has been colonised in the last half century. It now enjoys the status as a protected native. The Welcome Swallow is metallic blue-black above, light grey below on the breast and belly, and rusty on the forehead, throat and upper breast. It has a long forked tail, with a row of white spots on the individual feathers. These birds are about 15 cm long, including the outer tail feathers which are slightly shorter in the female. The call is a mixture of twittering and soft warbling notes, and a sharp whistle in alarm. Young Welcome Swallows are buffy white, instead of rufous, on the forehead and throat, and have shorter tail streamers. Welcome Swallows readily breed close to human habitation. The nest is an open cup of mud and grass, made by both sexes, and is attached to a suitable structure, such as a vertical rock wall or building. It is lined with feathers and fur, and three to five eggs are laid. Two broods are often raised in a season. The female alone incubates the eggs, which hatch after two to three weeks. The young are fed by both parents, and leave the nest after a further two to three weeks. These birds are extremely agile fliers, which feed on insects while in flight. They often fly fast and low to the ground on open fields in large circles or figure 8 patterns. They will often swoop around animals or people in the open.

Their relatively short self introduction to New Zealand pretty much matches my own life as I am 56. When as quite a young boy I first got interested in bird watching, these were very rarely seen birds and none in the South Island between Nelson and a small number near Invercargill. Now they’re everywhere and are a delight to watch swooping after insects over open fields or water.

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Taken on December 18, 2011