Crepuscular hunting of swiftlets (Family: Apodidae) by Besra (Family: Accipitridae) in the urban areas of the Andaman Islands, India

Main Article Content

Amruta Dhamorikar
Dhanusha Kawalkar
Prathamesh Gurjarpadhye
Shirish Manchi


We report the crepuscular hunting behavior by the Besra Accipiter virgatus, on the Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta affinis and the Edible-nest Swiftlets Aerodramus fuciphagus inexpectatus in urban areas the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.  Unlike other raptors in the islands, the Besra hunts at twilight often in the absence of moonlight or/and artificial light.  Glossy and Edible-nest Swiftlets have been ranched in human habitations and their nests harvested for livelihood support of local communities under an ex situ conservation program.  Using the focal animal sampling method, we recorded the hunting behavior of the Besra (the predator) on the swiftlets (the prey) for 40h (120 min/day for 20 days) at the ex situ swiftlet colony established in a house in the Middle Andamans.  The Besra made 84 hunting attempts, with the highest success rate (15.4%) between 17.00–18.00 h.  The catch rate was a mean of 4±11 (SD) per day.  The maximum time that was used for attempt to kill the prey was two hours.  Depredation of the Edible-nest Swiftlet by the Besra could affect ex situ conservation efforts, which can also lead to economic losses and retaliation against the raptor.  Restricting perch sites for the raptor around ranching houses might reduce predation risks for the swiftlets.

Article Details



Accuweather (2018). Mayabunder April Weather 2018. Electronic version accessed 31 July 2018.

Addinsoft (2020). XLSTAT statistical and data analysis solution. New York, USA.

Ali, S. & S.D. Ripley (1978). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, India, 247–251pp.

Altmann, J. (1974). Observational Study of Behavior: sampling methods. Behavior 49: 227–267.

Black, H.L., G. Howard & R. Stjemstedt (1979). Observations on the feeding behavior of the Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus). Biotropica 11: 18–21.

Champion, H.G. & S.K. Seth (2005). A revised survey of the forest types of India. Natraj Publishers, India, 105pp.

Chantler, P. & P. Boesman (2019). Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus). In: del Hoyo, J., A.Elliott, J.Sargatal, D.A. Christie & Juana (eds.). Handbook of Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Electronic version accessed on 20 October 2020

Clark, W.S. & J.S. Marks (2020). Besra (Accipiter virgatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World. del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, & E. de Juana (eds.). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Conservation International (2005). Biodiversity hotspots. Conservation International Facts. Electronic version accessed on 9 August 2019.

Cranbrook, E.O., G.W. Lim, L.C. Koon & M.A. Rahman (2013). The species of white-nest swiftlets (Apodidae, Collocaliini) of Malaysia and the origins of house-farm birds: Morphometric and genetic evidence. Forktail 29: 107–119.

Davidar, P., K. Yoganand & T. Ganesh (2001). Distribution of forest birds in the Andaman islands: importance of key habitats. Journal of Biogeography 28(5): 663–671.

Hobbs, J.J. (2004). Problems in the harvest of edible birds’ nest in Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 2209–2226.

Huang, K.Y., Y.S. Lin & L.L. Severinghaus (2004). The Diet of Besra Sparrowhawk (Accipiter virgatus) in Yangmingshan Area, Northern Taiwan. Taiwania 49: 149–158.

Birdlife International (2019). Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Andaman Islands. Birdlife International., Electronic version accessed on 11 June 2019.

Koon, L.C. & E. Cranbrook (2002). Swiflets of Borneo: Builders of Edible Nests. Natural History Publications, Borneo, 61–63pp.

Manchi, S. & A. Mane (2012). Conservation of the Edible-nest Swiftlet Collocalia fuciphaga in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, 16–32pp.

Manchi, S. & R. Sankaran (2009). Predators of swiftlets and their nests in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Indian Birds 5: 118–120.

Manchi, S. & R. Sankaran (2014). Protection of the White-nest swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus in the Andaman. Oryx 48(2): 213–217.

Mane, A.M. & S.S. Manchi (2017). Roosting patterns of the Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) of the Andaman Islands: effects of lunar phase and breeding chronology. Emu - Austral Ornithology 117: 325–332.

Mane, A.M. & S.S. Manchi (2019). Spatiotemporal roosting movements of the cave- dwelling Andaman Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus inexpectatus). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 131(1): 62–71.

Martin, G. (1990). Birds by Night. T & AD Poyser Ltd., London, 79-93pp.

Marzluff, J.M. (2016). A decadal review of urban ornithology and a prospectus for the future. Ibis 159: 1–13.

Mester, B. & T. Oliver (2018). Unusual Fishing Behavior of the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Journal of Raptor Research 52: 112–114.

Owen, J.H. (1932). The Feeding Habits of the Sparrow-Hawk. British Birds 26: 34–40.

Pierson, J.E. & P.Donahue (1983). Peregrine Falcon feeding on bats in Suriname, South America. American Birds 37(3): 257–259.

Rahmani, A.R., M.Z. Islam & R.M. Kasambe (2016). Important bird areas in India: priority sites for conservation, Second Edition: Revised and Updated, Vol. I. Bombay Natural History Society, Indian Bird Conservation Network, India; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and BirdLife International, UK, 64pp

Ratcliffe, D.A. (1980). The Peregrine Falcon. T & AD Poyser Ltd, London, 416pp.

Naoroji, R. (2006). Bird of Prey of the Indian Subcontinent. Om Books International, India, 692pp.

Rejt, L. (2001). Feeding activity and seasonal changes in prey composition of urban Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus. Acta Ornithologica 36(2): 165–169.

Seijas, A.E. (1996). Feeding of the bat falcon (Falco rufigularis) in an urban environment. Journal of Raptor Research 30: 33–35.

Tarburton, M.K. (2009). Swiftlet behavior responses to predators in proximity to their nests. Corella 33: 99–102.

Thorburn, C.C. (2015). The Edible Nest Swiftlet industry in Southeast Asia: Capitalism meets commensalism. Human Ecology 43(1): 179–184.

Time and Date (2018). Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India — Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, April 2018. Electronic version accessed on 31 July 2018.