Biodiv Sci ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (1): 54-61.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.08115

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

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:2013-01-20 Published:2013-02-04
  • Contact: 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