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Mottled Spinetail - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Ussher's Spinetail; Ussher's Spine-tailed Swift; Mottle-throated Spinetail; Mottle-throated Spine-tailed Swift

Photo © by Kwame Brown
Bonkro village, Ghana, November 2018


Telacanthura ussheri


14cm (5½ in); a medium-sized, typical Spinetail.

  • Short square tail, looking rounded when spread
  • Spinetail wing shape: hooked in outer wing and bulging in midwing
  • Pure white rump and a pale patch on the lower belly creating white band around the rear body
  • Dark brown, extensive grey-white mottling on chin and throat patch


Subspecies sharpei and stictilaema more blackish plumage instead of brownish


Sub Saharan Africa. Patchily distributed from Senegal through Western and Central Africa to the east (Tanzania). Also southwards to South Africa and in Angola.
Common in parts of East and Central Africa, rare in other parts of its range.


Has been placed in genus Chaetura or in genus Rhaphidura. Some authors suggest that this species is better split in two, but there is no concensus yet how to split exactly.


Four subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • T.u. ussheri in West Africa
  • T.u. sharpei in Central and East Africa
  • T.u. stictilaema in CE Africa
  • T.u. benguellensis in Angola and SE Africa


Light dry woodland, dominated by baobabs. Also seen over other habitat but not avoids human habitation. Usually recorded in the lowlands.



Feeds on flying ants and other insects, taken in flight. Forages in pairs or in small groups, often together with other Swifts or Swallows.


Breeding season differs through range. Nests in hollow trees, where it builds a small half-saucer nest of dried leaf fragments and twigs glued together with saliva. Copulates in flight. Lays 4 eggs.


Resident, but some seasonal movement occurs.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

Recommended Citation

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