• Scientific Name: Hirundo tahitica (Gmelin, 1789) subspecies tahitica
  • Polynesian Names: Ope’a (Society)
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Category: Large range Birds
  • Location: Whole Pacific, Subspecies endemic to Society

Apearance and identification

5 inches. Male and female identical in appearance. Black bird with orange-red throat. Can easily be confused with the Polynesian Swiftlet (Aerodramus leucophaeus). However, the body is here stockier and the wings are triangular, while those of the swiftlet look like sickle wings. The Tahiti Swallow makes a flapping flight (fluttering) and frequently arises (branches, ferns, cornices) while the Polynesian Swiftlet makes long flights and glides most of the time until it reaches the nest.

Videos

Voice

Characteristics

The species is widely distributed in the Pacific. French Polynesia’s population is an endemic subspecies: Hirundo tahitica tahitica. It is only present in Society Islands (Tahiti and Moorea). It was listed in Bora Bora, long ago.

Nests in nearby rivers cliffs from August to November at least, maybe even the whole year. The nest is made of grass and feathers. It is hung on the rock faces of cliffs or hollow natural cavities. The reproduction has been studied in other populations of the Pacific. 3 to 4 mottled brown pale pink eggs are incubated by the female for 15 days. Both parents feed the young who takes off after 18 days.

Wet valleys, mountains and mountain forests.

« tiit… » high-pitched.

Insects caught in flight.

Location

The species is widely distributed in the Pacific. French Polynesia’s population is an endemic subspecies: Hirundo tahitica tahitica. It is only present in Society Islands (Tahiti and Moorea). It was listed in Bora Bora, long ago.

Breeding

Nests in nearby rivers cliffs from August to November at least, maybe even the whole year. The nest is made of grass and feathers. It is hung on the rock faces of cliffs or hollow natural cavities. The reproduction has been studied in other populations of the Pacific. 3 to 4 mottled brown pale pink eggs are incubated by the female for 15 days. Both parents feed the young who takes off after 18 days.

Habitat

Wet valleys, mountains and mountain forests.

Voice

« tiit… » high-pitched.

Food

Insects caught in flight.

Status and protection

Non-endemic species although widespread throughout the Pacific and not threatened. However, the subspecies of Tahiti is threatened by introduced birds, especially the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis). Only a few hundred individuals in Tahiti and only a dozen in Moorea.

The species is listed in category A of the list of species protected by the territorial regulations of French Polynesia.
The species is classified as “Least Concern” (LC) on the IUCN Red List but “Near Threatened” (NT) on the France and Polynesia 2015 IUCN Red List.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.