Pictures and description of the Woodswallow bird

 Woodswallow birds
Return To Index Page Woodswallow Swallow

 From the family of Artamidae 

All the while I was given the impression that Wood swallows comes from Australia. Woodswallow is now part of the Artaminae group which is expanded from the Artamidae That large group include the Australian Butcherbirds and the Australian Magpie, so Woodswallow has more resemblances with these Australian birds. In fact, the Woodswallow had an earlier name as " Swallow-Starling" due to it similarity with the Shrikes for having that "butcher" quality. Yes, there is a good distribution of other Woodswallows in Australia but the species that we see here are Asian in origin. The White-breasted Woodswallow for example, do spread its range from Malaysia to Australia.

Though this bird has roughly the same size and some profile of the Swallow and also perched like one, the name "Woodswallow" is in fact a misnomer. This bird beside having that couple of similarities, is very different from the true Swallows.

The Woodswallow though having a brush-tipped tongue but hardly uses it to gather nectar. Instead being a smooth agile flyer, this is one bird that soar above tree top like Flycatchers to snatch their food insect and which most passerines would not do. They can do that because of the semi-triangular pointed wings and which they use ending with graceful glides back to their perch.

The Woodswallows hunts alone or in pair and here they are perched in pair or very small group of 3-4 birds but not clustered.

White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus

Here are the details I have collected on these  2 species of Woodswallows.:-


White-breasted Woodswallow  Artamus leucorynchus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- The bird is noticeably large than an average Swallow at 19 cm. Also with the bulky brownish grey head the bill appears more blue. The upper part is grey and the lower part is white. The white band across the rimp is not easily picked up.

 Distribution :-  Resident in the Andaman islands, Sundas, Philippines, New Guinea and south to Australia and right up to Vanuatu.
 Habitats & preferences:- Open country with some trees. This is a lowland bird.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- More often seen in Selangor State, in the coastal rice field areas.
Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos

White-breasted Woodswallow  # 1

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 2

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 3

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 4

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 5

White-breasted Woodswallow  # 6

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 7

White-breasted Woodswallow  # 8

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 9

White-breasted Woodswallow  # 10

White-breasted Woodswallow  # 11

White-breasted Woodswallow   # 12

 My personal jottings on the White-breasted Woodswallow :-

The bird is well scattered and seen in pairs. Though hardly in groups of few birds, but they are almost every where. Collectively they should be seen in great numbers challenging the numbers of Barn Swallows also appearing in the area.


Ashy Woodswallow  Artamus fuscus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- The bird is larger than an average Swallow at 18 cm. Bulky grey head with pale blue bill. Upper part brownish grey while the under part is more pale and still grey but towards more pronounced brownish

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Indian sub-continent, and south-west Pakistan.
 Habitats & preferences:- Lowland bird that prefers open country with some vegetation
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Hardly moves southwards into peninsula Malaysia. This is likely a stray in the northern state of Perlis
Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos

Ashy Woodswallow  # 1

Ashy  Woodswallow   # 2

Ashy Woodswallow   # 3

Ashy Woodswallow   # 4

Ashy Woodswallow   # 5

Ashy Woodswallow  # 6


 My personal jottings on the Ashy Woodswallow:-

 I could not believe my eyes but the pictures do tell the differences from the White-breasted that we are so familiar with..


I read some where that the bird was once a native of Australia, which of course Australia is still one of the many native lands. Perhaps has being migrating to the tropics for winter. This must be the White-breasted Woodswallows. Among the many species, the white-breasted Woodswallow has an with an extremely large range. It is native to the Andaman Islands, the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea, north and east Australia, and the southwest Pacific. There are nine recognized sub-species  of this bird and they all vary in overall size, bill size and wing length. Some even have their head and upper part in varying tone.

 Woodswallows are locally nomadic, they are following the best conditions for flying insects. So the bird, in a strict sense do not migrate but out of the vicinity for a while until the next circle when food becomes abundant in the area once more.