Ashy Woodswallow

Ashy Woodswallow
灰燕䴗 (huī yànjú)
Artamus fuscus
18 cm

The ashy woodswallow is the only representative in China of the monogeneric family Artamidae. It is resident from western Yunnan east across southern Guangxi to southern Guangdong and Hainan. Favors open country with scattered trees, in particular tall palm trees; to 1500 m. Perches on high, bare branches and on telephone wires, often in small, huddled flocks; soars and glides in swallow-like flight, taking insects on the wing. Also laps nectar with its brushy tongue. Monotypic. Stocky, long-winged, and square-tailed (the latter character distinguishing it from swallows). In flight, pointy, wide-based wings have strong triangular appearance. Head ashy-grey, in slight contrast to nape, mantle, back, and rump having brownish tinge (not always apparent); lores blackish. Uppertail coverts have narrow white band, and the dark grey tail is tipped white. Underparts pinkish-grey, whiter vent and undertail coverts may show indistinct brownish-grey barring. Juvenile browner on head and upperparts, with narrow buff-white fringes on mantle, back and wing feathers, giving scaly appearance; paler below with brownish cast on breast. Bill stout, finch-like, silvery (brownish-pink cast in juvenile), with black tip; feet grey. Call a squeaky, nasal “chek.” Song is a chattering twitter, with interspersed calls. Both song and call reminds of barn swallow, but with a stronger and more nasal voice. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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