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White-breasted Woodswallow

(Artamus leucorynchus)
Alternate name(s): "White-rumped Woodswallow"
Size: 16-18 cm
Weight: 40 g (average)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See White-breasted Woodswallow at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "leucopygialis"


Close-up frontal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Close-up frontal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2017]

Frontal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Lyndhurst, SA, October 2016]

Near-frontal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow stretching a wing
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2017]

Pair of White-breasted Woodswallows seen from below
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Dorsal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Ventral view of a White-breasted Woodswallow
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Frontal view of a White-breasted Woodswallow in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2010]

Lateral view of a White-breasted Woodswallow in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2010]

White-breasted Woodswallow in flight, seen from underneath
[Yarrie Lake, NSW, December 2013]

Here a family huddled together on a dead branch (photo courtesy of V. Jericho)
[Carawine Gorge, WA, July 2013]

White-breasted Woodswallows huddling even while preening
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2013]


Fledgling White-breasted Woodswallow waiting to be fed
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Here two young White-breasted Woodswallows waiting to be fed
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

Lateral view of young White-breasted Woodswallows
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

Here seen spreading their wings
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

White-breasted Woodswallow with three fledglings (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

White-breasted Woodswallow with a begging chick (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Lyndhurst, SA, October 2016]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Jan Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: ? Fledging age: ?

Given the right conditions (e.g. absence of frost), White-breasted Woodswallows can breed any time of the year.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Twigs, rootlets, dry grass Height above ground: 4 - 30 m

The nest shown below was found in an urban park, next to a walking track, with frequent traffic on foot. Nevertheless, it was at a height of only 4 m, possibly less (the photos were taken from the ground).

White-breasted Woodswallow nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2011]

White-breasted Woodswallow returning to its nest with food; the bird nested weeks later, so this meal must have been for itself
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Next the White-breasted Woodswallow sat down gingerly on its nest again...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

... while making sure that that human observer was no threat
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Here the same White-breasted Woodswallow seen nesting a month later
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2011]

A few weeks later, this White-breasted Woodswallow chick was seen leaving the nest, first cautious...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2012]

...then a bit more curious; the White-breasted Woodswallow chick is still only about 20 cm from its nest at this point (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2012]

The small fork into which the White-breasted Woodswallow nest shown above was built is "typical" of the species; but they are also opportunistic - in this case "recycling" a Magpie-lark nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2013]

The same White-breasted Woodswallow as shown above, now sitting on the recycled Magpie-lark nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2013]

The next breeding season, a pair of White-breasted Woodswallows in the same area were using a recycled Australian Magpie nest, a massive stick nest which is very different from a mud nest; two near-fledging age chicks can be seen in the nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2015]

White-breasted Woodswallow on its nest (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Kingaroy, QLD, October 2015]

Additional information

It is known that White-breasted Woodswallows will re-use nests of other species, in particular old mud nest built by Magpie-larks. This behaviour has also been reported to us by A. Morris. We have compiled some more information on the (re-)use of mud nests.


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 23 x 17 mm Colour: Light-brown, with tiny mid-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Flock

As shown above, White-breasted Woodswallows have been found by us to re-use Magpie-lark mud nests. This behaviour was also observed by A. Morris.

White-breasted Woodswallows are very combative birds that will try to keep raptors out of their territory and away from their nest. We have seen them attack raptors preying on birds, such as e.g. Australian Hobbies.

When a White-breasted Woodswallow fans its tail as indicated here it is usually upset
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

White-breasted Woodswallows will not shy away from hustling raptors as large and powerful as a Brown Falcon or even bigger (see below)
[April 2012]

White-breasted Woodswallow attacking a Whistling Kite
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

Wedge-tailed Eagle in flight (click on image to see what it had to put up with) - the little speck is a White-breasted Woodswallow; note that these photos were taken with 15x magnification (f=500 mm)!)
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, January 2008]

Food, Diet

Adults: Small insects Dependents: As adults Water intake: Daily(?)

Like all members of the Artamus family known to us, hunt small insects which they usually devour in-flight.

White-breasted Woodswallows, one of which has caught an insect (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

wbrstsw_20140816.mp3 leucopygialis
(Darwin, NT)
Contact call © MD
wbrstsw_20140110.mp3 leucopygialis
(Darwin, NT)
? © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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