Thursday, June 7, 2012

>Collocalia (esculenta) natalis (Christmas Island Swiftlet)

Christmas Island Swiftlet

Christmas Island Swiftlet
Scientific classification
Species:C. esculenta
Subspecies:C. e. natalis
Trinomial name
Collocalia esculenta natalis
Lister, 1889
  • Collocalia natalis
  • Collocalia linchi natalis
The Christmas Island Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta natalis), also known as the Christmas Island Glossy Swiftlet or the Christmas Island Cave Swiftlet, is a small bird in the swift family Apodidae. It is endemic to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the eastern Indian Ocean.


The taxon was described in 1889 by Lister. It has usually been considered a subspecies of the Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta). However, Christidis and Boles (2008) treat it as a subspecies of the Cave Swiftlet (Collocalia linchi). Here it is kept as a subspecies of the Glossy Swiftlet pending further study of its genome.


The Christmas Island Swiftlet is a small swiftlet some 9-11 cm in length. It is mainly glossy blue-black or green-black above, with dark grey underparts relieved by a prominent white belly and vent.

Distribution and habitat

The swiftlet is restricted to the 135 km2 Christmas Island where it is commonly seen in large numbers in flight above the tropical rainforest that covers 75% of the island, as well as over other terrestrial habitats there. It nests mainly in caves in the limestone cliffs surrounding the island.



The swiftlet breeds deep in caves, in almost total darkness. It builds a small cup-shaped nest for its clutch of two eggs, high up on the cave wall and often sheltered by a stalactite. The nests are made of dried palm fibres and lichen and are cemented to the cave wall with the bird’s saliva.


The swiftlet feeds aerially on flying ants and other insects.

Status and conservation

Garnett & Crowley (2000) considered the swiftlet, along with a suite of Christmas Island’s other endemics, as critically endangered, with the principal threat coming from the yellow crazy ants which were accidentally introduced to the island. The threat is not only that of direct ant predation of swiftlet nestlings, but also indirectly from potentially massive changes to the ecology of the island caused by the ants.However, the swiftlet is not listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

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