Biodiversity Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (1): 54-61.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.08115

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Breeding biology and conservation strategy of the Himalayan swiftlet (Aerodramus brevirostris innominata) in southern China

Bin Wang1, 2, Youhui Shen2, Qingyi Liao3, Jianzhang Ma1, *()   

  1. 1 College of Wildlife Resources, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040
    2 College of Life Sciences, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410081
    3 Hupingshan National Nature Reserve, Shimen, Hunan 415300
  • Received:2012-05-21 Accepted:2012-12-04 Online:2013-02-04
  • Ma Jianzhang

From April 1994 to November 2007, we studied the breeding biology of the Himalayan swiftlet (Aerodramus brevirostris innominata) based on field investigations, behavior observations, and bird bandings in the Shenjing Cave of Hupingshan National Nature Reserve, Hunan Province. Overall, we found a total breeding population of 2,000 swiftlets in the cave. The Himilayan swiftlet is a summer migrant in the area which arrives in early April and departs in early November. This species is monogamous with a sex ratio of about 1:1, and reaches sexual maturity at one year of age. Birds nested in dark caves, with nests primarily composed of saliva and mosses. Birds took 60 days to finish nest construction, and old nests from previous years were fully reused. We found that egg laying began after nest construction and peaked in June. In most cases, two eggs were found in each nest, while occasionally one egg. Both males and females were involved in incubation, but females invested relatively more time. The incubating temperature, duration, and hatching success were 37.3 ± 1.0℃, 27.9 ± 3.4 days, and 71.4%, respectively. Nestlings were altricial, and were fed mainly by males for about 27 days with insects, which were the same as adults’ diet. They spent another 3 or 4 days to learn to fly in the cave before fledgling the nest. Fledglings gained substantial weight, which tended to be greater total weight than the parents, before leaving the nest. We observed a concordant decrease in weight upon reaching sexual maturity. Primary threats to Himalayan swiftlets in China include disturbance to breeding activities resulting from tourism development and illegal nest-collection. We suggest that authorities halt development of caves and surrounding areas and ban the illegal nests collection.

Key words: Himalayan swiftlets, breeding biology, banding, Hupingshan National Nature Reserve

Fig. 1

A sketch map of the Shenjing Cave in the main study area"

Table 1

Environmental factors of nest site selection by the Himalayan swiftlets(n=993)"

Selected possibility
巢址高度 Nest height ≥3.0 m 98%
<3.0 m 2%
巢址亮度 Nest luminance ≥10 lx 0
<10 lx或≥0.1 lx 0
<0.1 lx 100%
巢址附近地表水 有 yes 85%
Presence of surface water 无 no 15%
啮齿动物攀援通道 有 yes 0
Presence of rodent paths 无 no 100%
巢址密度 ≥5/m2 45%
Density of nests 5/m2<或≥3/m2 30%
3/m2﹤或≥1/m2 25%

Fig. 2

Nests, eggs and hatchlings of Himalayan swiftlets"

Fig. 3

The growth curves of two hatchlings in the 17th nest"

Appendix I

Banding records of Himalayan Swiftlets at Hupingshan Nature Reserve during 2000-2005"

环号 环志地点
B029403 2号巢 +2号(新巢) +2号 幼鸟
B029404 2号巢 2号巢 2号巢
B029405 3号巢 3号巢 3号巢 3号巢 2005年
B029406 3号巢 3号巢 3号巢 3号巢 3号巢 更换配偶
B029407 4号巢 +4号(新巢) 洞口 幼鸟
B029413 7号巢 7号巢 7号巢
B029414 7号巢 7号巢上洞壁 7号巢 7号巢
B029419 10号巢 +10号(新巢) +10号巢 幼鸟
B029420 10号巢 ++10号巢 ++10号巢 ++10号巢 幼鸟
B029425 13号巢 13号(新巢) 13号巢 2001年
B029427 14号巢 14号巢 配偶更换
B029430 15号巢 15号巢 洞壁 15号巢
B029435 18号巢 18号巢 18号巢 2003年
B029436 18号巢 18号巢 18号巢 18号巢 配偶更换
B029442 21号巢 21号巢 洞口
B029447 24号巢 24号巢 洞口
B029451 26号巢 26号巢
B029452 26号巢 26号巢 洞口
B029458 29号巢 洞口
B029467 34号巢 34号巢
B029470 35号巢 35号巢 洞口 洞口
B029473 37号巢 37号巢
B029474 37号巢 洞口
B029481 41号巢 洞口
B029485 43号巢 43号巢 洞口
B029486 43号巢 43号巢
B029490 45号巢 45号巢
B029493 47号巢 洞口 洞口
B029498 49号巢 49号巢

Appendix II

Pluming sequences in the 17th nest"

日龄 羽毛生长情况
0 全身无羽, 仅背部脊椎两侧有很淡的2条羽迹线。
2 背上4条羽迹线清晰, 头顶正中长出一条羽迹线。
5 腹部两侧各长出1条羽迹线; 背部、头部羽芽长出。
8 翅缘飞羽羽芽长出; 背部、头部羽毛呈绒状, 腹部羽芽长出。
12 尾羽羽芽长出, 飞羽羽轴顶端破裂, 呈缨状; 头、背部羽毛基本长齐, 腹部羽毛呈绒状。
15 尾羽羽鞘顶端破裂, 飞羽全面展开, 从外观上看整个身体已被羽毛覆盖。但腋下无羽。
18 腋下羽毛长出, 毛状, 其他羽毛生长较快, 尤以飞羽、尾羽生长速度最快。
21 眼睛睁开, 羽毛长齐。
24 羽毛呈成鸟状态, 开始在窝内展翅。
26 在巢附近学飞。
27 离巢出洞。
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