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The whiskered treeswift (Hemiprocne comata) is the smallest bird species in the Hemiprocnidae family. The feathers on this bird’s head, wings, and tail are bluish-black in colour, while its back and chest are shaded olive-brown. This striking bird has unique, horizontal white lines above and below its eyes that appear as elongated ‘brow and moustache’ markings, or ‘whiskers’, hence its name.

This little bird has a long tail and wings, resembling a cross between a swallow and a swift. Males of the species have reddish-brown ‘earmuffs’. It is found in the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines, Sumatra, and Kalimantan, in tropical forests and mangroves.

Adults of the species – and even their hatchlings – have very powerful, clear voices, making this bird one of the ‘soprano singers’ of Borneo’s forests. The whiskered treeswift perches on prominent tree branches, making it easier to catch its prey of mainly small insects.

Hemiprocne comata (Photo Credit: Nova)

Not too much is known about the lifestyle of whiskered treeswifts, but we do know that they form breeding pairs. Together, the mother and the father protect their territory and raise their young. However, this process is a quick one as from the time of laying the egg to the chick leaving the nest is only a matter of weeks.

The presence of the whiskered treeswift in the Kehje Sewen Forest indicates that this environment still supports rich biodiversity. It is our responsibility as humans to ensure the conservation of such spaces.

Text by: Faldo Pangemanan, PRM team member at Camp Nles Mamse, Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan

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