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Tahiti Swiftlet Collocalia leucophaea

In 1923, when 12 specimens of this species were collected by the Whitney Expedition, it was suggested that future ornithologists would probably never see this bird. However, a very small population does survive in a few valleys on a single island, and the species is consequently listed as Vulnerable. Any indication of a decline would elevate its status.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Taxonomic note
Gender agreement of species name follows David and Gosselin (2002a).

Aerodramus leucophaeus Collar and Andrew (1988), Aerodramus leucophaeus leucophaeus Collar and Andrew (1988), Collocalia leucophaeus Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Collocalia leucophaeus Collar et al. (1994), Collocalia leucophaeus BirdLife International (2000), Collocalia leucophaeus leucophaeus BirdLife International (2000), Collocalia leucophaeus leucophaeus Collar et al. (1994), Collocalia leucophaeus leucophaeus Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)

10 cm. Small, dark swift. All sooty-brown, slightly lighter below. Square tail. Similar spp. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica has forked tail, glossier plumage above, dark chestnut throat. Voice Dry trill trrrr.

Distribution and population
Collocalia leucophaea breeds only on Tahiti in the Society Islands, French Polynesia, where it was recorded in five valleys in 1971-1974 (Holyoak and Thibault 1984), and in six valleys (out of 39 visited) during the period 1986-1991 (Monnet et al. 1993), apparently never having been abundant in the 20th century (Holyoak and Thibault 1984). Indeed, in 1923, it was noted that two local hunters travelled for eight days through the valleys without seeing this species (Beck 1923). In 1997, a new breeding site, with c.30 nests, was found (P. Raust in litt. 1999, C. Blainvillain verbally 2000). A population of c.100 birds is monitored regularly in Papehue valley and appears to be stable (P. Raust in litt. 2007). The global population is estimated to be below 1,000 birds and stable. It was formerly encountered on Huahine and (possibly) Bora Bora, while records from Moorea in 1973 may have referred to vagrants from Tahiti (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Monnet et al. 1993, P. Raust in litt. 1999, 2012).

Population justification
The population size is estimated to be below 1,000 birds based on analyses of available records. It is placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals, equating to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
Although there is very little information available, the one monitored colony appears to be stable; thus, the remainder of the population is also suspected to be stable.

It prefers wet, rocky and forested valleys at high elevations (Pratt et al. 1987). It nests either in shallow depressions under overhanging rocks and coastal cliffs, or caves (Pratt et al. 1987, Chantler and Driessens 1995).

Its rarity is possibly linked to the introduction of the Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (Holyoak and Thibault 1984) (which is known to defend territories, tree hollows and other nesting sites from native birds) and Swamp Harrier Circus approximans (C. Blainvillain verbally 2000). Other introduced species may have a negative impact on Tahiti Swiftlet.

Conservation Actions Underway
The population at Papehue valley is monitored regularly. Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect the known breeding sites (P. Raust in litt. 1999). Survey for other breeding sites. Continue and expand monitoring of known populations. Identify nest predators and take protective measures as necessary.

Beck, R. H. 1923. Ornithologie. Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Océaniennes: 32-34.

Chantler, P.; Driessens, G. 1995. Swifts: a guide to the swifts and treeswifts of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, U.K.

Holyoak, D. T.; Thibault, J. -C. 1984. Contribution à l'étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Memoires du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle - Serie A: Zoologie 127: 1-209.

Monnet, C.; Thibault, J.; Varney, A. 1993. Stability and changes during the twentieth century in the breeding landbirds of Tahiti (Polynesia). Bird Conservation International 3: 261-280.

Pratt, H. D.; Bruner, P. L.; Berrett, D. G. 1987. A field guide to the birds of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Thibault, J. -C. 1988. Menaces et conservation des oiseaux de Polynésie Française. In: Thibault, J.-C.; Guyot, I. (ed.), Livre rouge des oiseaux menacés des régions françaises d'outre-mer, pp. 87-124. Conseil International pour la Protection des Oiseaux, Saint-Cloud.

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Stattersfield, A.

Blanvillain, C., Raust, P.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Collocalia leucophaea. Downloaded from on 19/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 19/04/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Tahiti swiftlet (Collocalia leucophaea) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Apodidae (Swifts)
Species name author (Peale, 1848)
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 110 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species