Brown-backed Needletail

This species is defined as a Review Species . Please submit your records of this species via our record submission page .

Scientific Name: Hirundapus giganteus

Malay Name: Layang-layang Besar Biasa

Chinese Name: 褐背针尾雨燕

Range: Found from Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia

Taxonomy: Polytypic. Subspecies are: indicus, giganteus.

Local Subspecies: giganteus, indicus

Size: 21-24.5 cm

Identification: Migratory subspecies indicus looks bulky and has mostly blackish body, distinctive white lower flanks and vent, brownish saddle on lower mantle and white loral spot. The resident subspecies of Thai-Malay Peninsula giganteus is larger than indicus and lacks the white loral spot.

Similar looking species: Silver-rumped Spinetail, White-throated Needletail, Silver-backed Needletail

Habitat: Forested and open areas.

Behaviour/Ecology: Has fast gliding flight, wings make loud whooshing sound when zooming overhead.

Local Status: Rare migrant and very rare visitor

Conservation Status: Least Concern (BirdLife International 2016)

Location: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (Summit), Jelutong Tower and Chinese Garden.

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Past records in our database:

Showing only accepted records. Note that records currently under review are also not displayed, and the list may not be a full list of records of this species in Singapore. For more details, check the database here.

Migrant bar chart (see more bar charts):

Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
Estimated average number of individuals by week based on eBird data, Jul 2013 to Jun 2023
Peak weeks Mar 19-Mar 25, Oct 29-Nov 04, Nov 12-Nov 18
Early date 01 Jul 1993
Late date 13 May 2017
Usually seen during the raptor migration period in Oct and Nov. Decent views or photographs are required to rule out the similar Silver-backed Needletail, which has a slightly paler throat.


BirdLife International. (2016). Hirundapus giganteus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Accessed on 1 January 2023

Robson, C. (2014). Field guide to the birds of South-East Asia (Second Edition). Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

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