2 minute read

Woodswallows: Artamidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Woodswallows are highly social and swiftly flying birds. When not foraging, they often are seen preening (grooming feathers with bill) each other and perching together, clustered together in large numbers on visible tree branches, wires, utility poles, and other such objects. Although clusters of more than 100 have been recorded, most numbers are in the range of fifteen to twenty. Most species remain in the same area all year-round, but at least three species are widely nomadic; that is, they like to wander in (sometimes) mixed species flocks of 100 or more, often traveling from tropical to temperate (mild) environments at different times of the year. Sometimes, at night, they roost as a community, with dozens of birds huddled together, often on the trunk of a tree or in a hollow. In winter, they often join mixed species flocks in order to forage. They have no true song, but do communicate with a soft twittering call that is sounded almost all of the time while foraging for insects. When predators are nearby, woodswallows often mob about them, frequently attacking them, while making harsh calls in the attempt to drive them away.

Woodswallows are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus; having one mate) birds, becoming less social while in their breeding periods. Their courtship, which is usually begun at the start of rainfall in arid, dry, regions, may involve one bird presenting the other one with a piece of food. Later, one of the pair will start to flutter its partly opened wings and to rotate its spread-out tail. The other partner will respond with similar actions for up to a minute or so. The male will then fly to the female in order to mate. They nest in loose colonies (large groups of birds that live together and are dependent on each other) during the rainy season. Nests are usually clumsily made, shallow, bowl-like structures made of plant fibers such as rootlets, fine twigs, and grasses, lined with thin green plant stems, and placed in trees, shrubs, stumps, fence posts, and rocky crevices (birdwatchers can often see woodswallow eggs through the bottom of the frail nest).

Woodswallows are opportunistic breeders; that is, they take advantage of unpredictable environmental conditions when reproducing. In fact, in arid regions, nests may be built within six days of rainfall and eggs laid within twelve days, which is much shorter in time than the normal nest-building period. Both parents build the nest. Females lay two to four white eggs that are spotted or blotched with a variety of colors, but often reddish. The incubation period (time that it takes to sit on eggs before hatching) is twelve to sixteen days, with both parents helping to incubate (sit on eggs). The fledgling period (time necessary for young bird to grow feathers necessary to fly) is fourteen to twenty days. Both parents, and sometimes one or two helpers, feed and take care of their young, continuing often a month after they can first leave the nest.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsWoodswallows: Artamidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Dusky Woodswallow (artamus Cyanopterus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, WOODSWALLOWS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS