Grey-rumped Treeswift

Last Updated on 9 February 2024

The Gray-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis) is a species of small, aerial birds found in parts of Southeast Asia including Singapore. These treeswifts not only inhabit forested habitats, they have adapted to our urban jungle and can often be seen gracefully maneuvering through our local residential neighbourhoods.

The Grey-rumped Treeswifts have a swift-like behaviour and appearance, but they belong to a different family (Hemiprocnidae) than true swifts (Apodidae). They are skilled aviators, spending much of their time in flight. They feed on flying insects, such as flies and other small prey, which they capture mid-air.

When perched, the treeswift looks elegant with its sleek and slender body, stylishly forked tail, and snazzy crest. The adult birds have glossy greenish-grey plumage on the upperparts, a whitish throat, and a distinctive grey or pale rump, which gives the species its name. The differentiating feature between the male and female Grey-rumped Treeswift is in the colour of the ear-coverts (the feathers covering the ears).

Mr Treeswift typically displays chestnut or rufous-coloured ear-coverts, adding a touch of warmth to his ensemble.

Mrs Treeswift goes for the dark, mysterious look, with her blackish ear-coverts. Doesn’t she look cool?

These birds are monogamous and breed during the dry season. Ah, love is in the air, especially between March and September when these lovebirds decide it’s time to start a family.

A cozy cup-shaped nest appears on a tree branch – a blend of twigs, feathers, plant fibers, and the secret ingredient: tons of saliva. Usually, a single egg is laid, and both parents chip in to incubate and care for the chick.

Somewhere in the vicinity of our neighbourhood, a family of Grey-rumped Treeswifts have made the trees above a carpark their home and they have been nesting here regularly. This gave us the opportunity to observe them while they nest and care for their young.

Parental duties involve spending loads of time sitting on the egg, and then when the chick is hatched, sitting on the chick to keep it snug and warm. This 24/7 routine can get rather monotonous at times.

It helps to have both father and mother taking turns to do the tedious work.

There are times when both daddy and mummy need a break, and junior is left alone to entertain himself.

The male and female treeswifts take turns to bring back the dough.

Baby food consists of regurgitated globs of digested insects.

The small chick seems to be constantly ravenous and always asking for more.

Well, he needs as much food as possible to grow quickly.

What a cutie pie, right?

After a period of two weeks, the chick grows considerably bigger, and the crest starts to show…

…the wings begin to take on a glossy greenish sheen, like his parents’…

…and pretty soon, he will flap his wings and take off into the sky.

In this particular area, we have encountered several nesting attempts, but unfortunately, not every nesting attempt gets a fairytale ending. More than half of the time, these nesting missions end without success. Eggs might pull a disappearing act, or they become an on-the-go snack for other birds. The Oriental Pied Hornbill – who also lives in the neighbourhood – had been witnessed having an eggs-tra crunchy breakfast right next to the treeswifts’ nest!

Through these ups and downs, we’re rooting for the treeswifts, hoping for more success stories. Here’s to more nests, more chicks, and more stylish aviators gracing our neighborhood skies!