Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Papuan Spinetail (Mearnsia novaeguineae)


French: Martinet papou German: Papuasegler Spanish: Vencejo papúa
Other common names: Papuan Needletail, Papuan Spine-tailed Swift

Chaetura novaeguineae

D’Albertis and Salvadori

, 1879,

Fly River, New Guinea


Previously placed in Chaetura, and earlier in monospecific genus Papuanapus. Proposed race mamberana, from mouth of Mamberamo R, nowadays included in buergersi. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. n. buergersi (Reichenow, 1917) – lowlands of N New Guinea from Mamberamo R E to Astrolabe Bay.
  • M. n. novaeguineae (D’Albertis & Salvadori, 1879) – S & SE New Guinea lowlands from area S of Geelvink Bay E to Orangerie Bay.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5 cm. Small spinetail with large head, short square tail appearing rounded when spread, rectrix spines up to 1 mm beyond web, and distinct wing shape which is... read more


    Rather silent. Occasionally gives a series of buzzy “zizz” or “sizz” calls. Also an unusual series... read more


    Lowland species not recorded over 550 m. Found primarily over forested areas on coast and in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Typically forages in pairs or small flocks, groups over 40 not unknown. Often associates with swiftlets. Very active in crepuscular period... read more


    Breeds in second half of dry season in Trans-Vanapa, Central Province. Nests in hollows in trees; recorded entering hollow trunk of burnt... read more


    Resident; may show some local dispersal.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Frequency varies locally from scarce to abundant in suitable habitat; locally common around Kiunga, on upper Fly R. Record in 1992 of 10 birds in W... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Papuan Spinetail (Mearnsia novaeguineae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).