Hemiprocnidae – Treeswifts

These not-so-social birds have unique characteristics that distinguish them from true swifts

Treeswifts are closely related to the true swifts (Apodidae) but have distinct characteristics and behaviors that set them apart. Treeswifts inhabit various forested regions in South and Southeast Asia, extending to the northeastern parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Treeswifts are slender birds with striking crests on their heads, which can be raised or lowered depending on the bird’s state of excitement or alertness. Their plumage is often iridescent and includes shades of blue, green, and black, which blend beautifully with the forest canopy. The deeply forked tails and elongated wingtips are distinctive features that make treeswifts easily recognizable when perched on a branch.

These birds are aerial insectivores equipped with a broad gap to catch insects effectively in flight. Their short bill is surrounded by a fleshy area known as the gape, which aids in their foraging strategy. The large, sensitive eyes of treeswifts are an adaptation to their crepuscular activity patterns, allowing them to spot prey in low light conditions, particularly at dawn and dusk.

Treeswifts are more sedentary than their swift relatives, preferring to perch in an open vantage point from where they launch to snatch flying insects. They are equipped with bristles around their mouths, which are thought to aid in sensing and catching prey.

Socially, treeswifts are known to forage and breed in small groups. During the breeding season, their social behavior becomes more pronounced, with pairs engaging in aerial displays and mutual preening. Treeswifts construct small, compact nests, often attaching them to a vertical tree branch or under a tree limb. These nests are made from feathers, moss, and saliva, similar to those of the swifts.