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Tree Martin - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Tom Tarrant
Lake Samsonvale, SE Qld, Australia
Petrochelidon nigricans

Hirundo nigricans


13 cm. Iridescent blue back and crown, brown wings and tail, rufous forehead, white rump, white underparts, shallowly forked tail. The sexes are similar, but young birds are duller and browner, with a paler forehead and pale fringes to the back and wing feathers.


Australia and Timor. It winters through most of Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia east of the Wallace Line and the Solomon Islands. It is a vagrant to New Zealand and New Caledonia.


Previously included in genus Hirundo.

Petrochelidon nigricans has 3 subspecies

  • P. n. nigricans; the largest subspecies, breeds in eastern Australia, except northern Queensland, and is the form that has bred in New Zealand.
  • P. n. timoriensis; the smallest subspecies, breeds mainly in Timor. It has dark streaks on the troat and neck.
  • P. n. neglecta; breeds in western and northern Australia. It is slightly smaller than nominate nigricans at 11-12 cm length.


Open woodland.


Nests are made in natural holes in dead trees or rock crevices from grass and leaves, but may be reinforced with mud. A mud and plant fibre cement is also used to reduce the width of the entrance to the breeding hole. 3-5 brown and mauve-spotted white eggs are laid; they may be double-brooded.

References: Lepage D. 2008. Avibase. Search for "Tree Martin" downloaded 31 January 2008.

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