• Scientific Name: Aerodramus leucophaeus (Peale, 1848)
  • Polynesian Names: Ope’a, opeia (Tahiti)
  • Order: Apodiformes
  • FamilyApodidae
  • CategoryEndemic Birds
  • Location: Society (Tahiti)

Apearance and identification

4 inches. Male and female identical in appearance. Small black bird reminiscent of swallows. The confusions are common in Tahiti as the latter are also present. Polynesian Swiftlets however have a more slender body and sickled wings. The Tahiti Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) silhouette,  is stockier and has triangular wings. The Polynesian Swiftlet generally flies much higher and only lands on the nest. They make long characteristic gliding flights.

More photos of the Polynesian Swiftlet: HERE.
Please note that these photos are copyrighted and not free of rights. Contact the author for any request.

Videos

Voice

Characteristics

Society Islands. It seems the bird only remains on the island of Tahiti. It disappeared from Huahine and Bora Bora. Its survival is uncertain in Moorea.

Colonies of 5 to 50 pairs. Foam nests are built sheltered under rock.

Flies at the entrance of the valleys, above forests and lakes. Nests in wet, rocky and forested valleys up to 800 meters high.

Emits a brief scream repeated one or more times.

Insects caught in flight.

Location

Society Islands. It seems the bird only remains on the island of Tahiti. It disappeared from Huahine and Bora Bora. Its survival is uncertain in Moorea.

Breeding

Colonies of 5 to 50 pairs. Foam nests are built sheltered under rock.

Habitat

Flies at the entrance of the valleys, above forests and lakes. Nests in wet, rocky and forested valleys up to 800 meters high.

Voice

Emits a brief scream repeated one or more times.

Food

Insects caught in flight.

Status and protection

While at the beginning of the 20th century many swiftlet used to nests under roofs in Papeete, the species is now vulnerable to extinction. It only remains in some valleys of Tahiti. In 2000, its numbers were estimated between 250 to 500 individuals. Two introduced birds namely – the Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) and the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), are the main threat of the Polynesian Swiftlet.

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

https://inpn.mnhn.fr/espece/cd_nom/441614/tab/statut

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