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Apodidae

Swift
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer ©Trevor Hardaker Website

Common Swift - Apus apus

Named as Hirundo Apus by Linnaeus in 1758, Common Swift has two subspecies: A. a. apus (W Palearctic north of Sahara east to Lake Baikal, south-east towards Iran (recent colonist of Gran Canaria and probably Teneriefe) and A. a. pekinensis (Iran east through Himalayas to Mongolia and N China). Both races winter primarily south of Equator in Africa.

Over vast breeding range occurs in a wide range of habitats from arid steppe, desert, temperate, Mediterranean zones and boreal zone and from sea-level to high altitude (recorded migrating at 5700m in Himalayas). Similarly occurs over all sub-Saharan habitats in the winter. Abundance in Britian apparently correlates with climate; commonest in relatively warm and dry south and east, becoming scarcer to the north and west where insect abundance is reduced in the comparatively wetter conditions. In Israel less abundant in driest areas.

In spring present in south of breeding range from mid Mar, arriving later further north, where migration occurs into Jun. Leaves Europe from late Jul being present on African wintering grounds from Sept. Broadfront autumn migration from Europe with S SW bearing, whilst return migration is by a more easterly route. Race pekinensis has departed South Africa by early Mar, with nominate birds leaving somewhat earlier, late Jan - early Feb. Small numbers winter north of Sahara, for instance on Cape Verde Is, Egypt, Israel and the Arab Gulf states.

Within huge range the onset of breeding season varies widely, from Mar in Israel, mid May in Britain and late May in Scandinavia. Mainly colonial, with separate nests typically over 1m apart. Male prospects and choses nest site in order to attract female, who is initially greeted with hostile display, though allopreening occurs when she submits by lifting head to expose throat patch. Nests mainly in buildings, but also in tree hollows and rock crevices in remote areas. Half-cupped nest measures 125 x 110 mm with an internal diameter of 45 mm; consists of small pieces of vegetable matter and feathers, agglutinated with saliva,. Clutch 1-4 eggs, measuring: 25 x 16 mm; parents share nesting duties equally, with incubation initiated by laying of last egg, with a period of 19.5 days.

Continuous brooding in first week, becomes discontinuous from second with young unattended during inclement weather. Weather causes feeding rate variation; two young share foodball until they are large enough to swallow one whole around day 14, with an average 10 foodballs daily. Young becomes restless from 2-3 weeks, with wing exercises and allopreening; self initiated fledging after sunset or prior to 08.00 am; average fledging period 42.5 days, with wide range of 37-56 days due to weather conditions. Mating on wing and at nest. Average breeding success between 58-65% with on average between 1.3-1.7 young fledging per breeding effort.

A common species, with 1997 population estimates in Europe between 3,973,943-4,872,619, Russia 1,00,000-5,000,000 and Turkey 50,000-500,000. Apparent decline in some areas of Europe, at least, as shown by reported recent declines in 12 European countries. In Britain and Ireland censuses between 1968-1972 revealed an estimated 100,000 pairs and between then and 1989-1990 there is apparently no evidence of siginificant population change.

There are, according to the IOC, 105 Swifts, Swiftlets, Spinetails, Needletails and Palm-Swifts in the family Apodidae; they are:

Spot-fronted Swift Cypseloides cherriei
White-chinned Swift Cypseloides cryptus
White-fronted Swift Cypseloides storeri
Sooty Swift Cypseloides fumigatus
Rothschild's Swift Cypseloides rothschildi
American Black Swift Cypseloides niger
White-chested Swift Cypseloides lemosi
Great Dusky Swift Cypseloides senex

Tepui Swift Streptoprocne phelpsi
Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
Biscutate Swift Streptoprocne biscutata
White-naped Swift Streptoprocne semicollaris

Giant Swiftlet Hydrochous gigas

Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi
Bornean Swiftlet Collocalia dodgei
Pygmy Swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes

Seychelles Swiftlet Aerodramus elaphrus
Mascarene Swiftlet Aerodramus francicus
Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor
Philippine Swiftlet Aerodramus mearnsi
Halmahera Swiftlet Aerodramus infuscatus
Sulawesi Swiftlet Aerodramus sororum
Seram Swiftlet Aerodramus ceramensis
Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinaceus
White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius
Australian Swiftlet Aerodramus terraereginae
Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris
Volcano Swiftlet Aerodramus vulcanorum
Whitehead's Swiftlet Aerodramus whiteheadi
Bare-legged Swiftlet Aerodramus nuditarsus
Mayr's Swiftlet Aerodramus orientalis
Mossy-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus salangana
Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis
Ameline Swiftlet Aerodramus amelis
Palau Swiftlet Aerodramus pelewensis
Mariana Swiftlet Aerodramus bartschi
Island Swiftlet Aerodramus inquietus
Tahiti Swiftlet Aerodramus leucophaeus
Atiu Swiftlet Aerodramus sawtelli
Marquesan Swiftlet Aerodramus ocistus
Black-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus maximus
Edible-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus
Germain's Swiftlet Aerodramus germani
Three-toed Swiftlet Aerodramus papuensis

Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus
Schouteden's Swift Schoutedenapus schoutedeni

Philippine Spine-tailed Swift Mearnsia picina
Papuan Spine-tailed Swift Mearnsia novaeguineae

Madagascan Spinetail Zoonavena grandidieri
Sao Tome Spinetail Zoonavena thomensis
White-rumped Spinetail Zoonavena sylvatica

Mottled Spinetail Telacanthura ussheri
Black Spinetail Telacanthura melanopygia

Silver-rumped Spinetail Rhaphidura leucopygialis
Sabine's Spinetail Rhaphidura sabini

Cassin's Spinetail Neafrapus cassini
Böhm's Spinetail Neafrapus boehmi

White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus
Silver-backed Needletail Hirundapus cochinchinensis
Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
Purple Needletail Hirundapus celebensis

Lesser Antillean Swift Chaetura martinica
Band-rumped Swift Chaetura spinicaudus
Costa Rican Swift Chaetura fumosa
Pale-rumped Swift Chaetura egregia
Grey-rumped Swift Chaetura cinereiventris
Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi
Sick's Swift Chaetura meridionalis
Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica
Chapman's Swift Chaetura chapmani
Mato Grosso Swift Chaetura viridipennis
Short-tailed Swift Chaetura brachyura

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis
White-tipped Swift Aeronautes montivagus
Andean Swift Aeronautes andecolus

Antillean Palm Swift Tachornis phoenicobia
Pygmy Palm Swift Tachornis furcata
Neotropical Palm Swift Tachornis squamata

Great Swallow-tailed Swift Panyptila sanctihieronymi
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift Panyptila cayennensis

African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis

Cape Verde Swift Apus alexandri
Common Swift Apus apus
Plain Swift Apus unicolor
Nyanza Swift Apus niansae
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
African Black Swift Apus barbatus
Fernando Po Swift Apus sladeniae
Forbes-Watson's Swift Apus berliozi
Bradfield's Swift Apus bradfieldi
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus
Salim Ali's Swift Apus salimalii
Blyth's Swift Apus leuconyx
Cook's Swift Apus cooki
Dark-rumped Swift Apus acuticauda
Little Swift Apus affinis
House Swift Apus nipalensis
Horus Swift Apus horus
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
Bates's Swift Apus batesi

Family Links

Swifts Apodidae

Family Account

The swifts are a family, Apodidae, of highly aerial birds. They are superficially similar to swallows, but are not closely related to any of the passerine species.

Swifts Apodidae

Cornell Family Account

American species

Swifts Apodidae

BTO Family Account

UK species and vagrants

Swifts Apodidae

HBW Family Account

Swifts Apodidae

Family Account

Swifts are the most aerial of birds. Dashing across the skies on scythe-like wings, they are difficult to study, let alone photograph.

Species Links

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

Species Account

The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) formerly Apus melba, is a species of swift. The genus name is from the Ancient Greek takhus, "fast", and marptis, "seizer". The specific melba has no known explanation.

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

IUCN Species Status

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Hirundo Melba Linnaeus, 1758, Gibraltar.

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

Species Account

The American black swift or more simply black swift (Cypseloides niger) is a name given to birds that are found from northern British Columbia in Canada through the United States and Mexico to Costa Rica and Brazil.

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

Cornell Species Account

Black Swift occurs widely throughout western North America in summer, with its breeding range extending as far north as southeastern Alaska, as far east as central Colorado, and south through Mexico and Central America to Costa Rica, with additional populations in the West Indies.

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

BirdLife Species Account

Species account

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Hirundo nigra J. F. Gmelin, 1789, Hispaniola. Previously placed in monotypic genus Nephoecetes. Thought to be closely related to C. lemosi, C. rothschildi and C. fumigatus. Darkness of plumage varies within range of nominate; proposed race jamaicensis (from S West Indies) now considered synonymous with nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi

IBC Species Account

Full species account

Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi

Species Account

The cave swiftlet (Collocalia linchi) is a species of swift in the family Apodidae. It is found in Indonesia, Malaysia and India. It is a woodland species and nests in caves. The Bornean swiftlet was considered a subspecies, but is now usually considered distinct.

Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi

BirdLife Species Account

Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Collocalia linchi Horsfield and F. Moore, 1854, Java.

Cave Swiftlet Collocalia linchi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

HBW Species Account

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

Cornell Species Account

Chestnut-collared Swift is a rather large swift of montane regions. It is found from Mexico south through Central America, the Andes from Venezuela south to Bolivia, and in the coastal mountains of northern Venezuela and on Trinidad.

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

IUCN Species Status

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

Species Account

The chestnut-collared swift (Streptoprocne rutila) is a resident breeding bird from Mexico and Trinidad south to Peru and Bolivia. It was one of the species of Cypseloides controversially moved to Streptoprocne by the AOU (BLI 2004).

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

BirdLife Species Account

Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

Species Account

The chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica) is a bird belonging to the swift family Apodidae. A member of the genus Chaetura, it is closely related to both the Vaux's swift and the Chapman's swift; in the past, the three were sometimes considered to be conspecific.

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

IUCN Species Status

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

BirdLife Species Account

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

Cornell Species Account

A recognizable component of the eastern North American avifauna, this small, agile, fast-flying swift is easily identified by its characteristic "cigar on wings" profile.

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Hirundo Pelagica Linnaeus, 1758, South Carolina, USA. Previously considered conspecific with C. vauxi and C. chapmani. Recent study suggests that this species may be very closely related to and very possibly conspecific with C. meridionalis. Monotypic.

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Common Swift Apus apus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Common Swift Apus apus

IUCN Species Status

Common Swift Apus apus

Species Account

The common swift (Apus apus) is a medium-sized bird, superficially similar to the barn swallow or house martin but somewhat larger. It is, however, completely unrelated to those passerine species, since swifts are in the separate order Apodiformes. The resemblances between the groups are due to convergent evolution reflecting similar life styles. Swifts' nearest relatives are thought to be the New World hummingbirds and the Southeast Asian treeswifts....

Common Swift Apus apus

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Common Swift Apus apus

RSPB Species Account

The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flier. It evens sleeps on the wing! It is plain sooty brown, but in flight against the sky it appears black.

Common Swift Apus apus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Hirundo Apus Linnaeus, 1758, Sweden.

House Swift Apus nipalensis

Species Account

The house swift (Apus nipalensis) is a species of swift in the family Apodidae. It is found in Nepal, and Southeast Asia. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the little swift.

House Swift Apus nipalensis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cypselus Nipalensis Hodgson, 1837, central region of Nepal.

House Swift Apus nipalensis

BirdLife Species Account

House Swift Apus nipalensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinacea

Species Account

The mountain swiftlet (Aerodramus hirundinaceus) is a species of swift in the family Apodidae. It is endemic to the island of New Guinea and the nearby islands of Karkar, Yapen and Goodenough.

Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinacea

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Collocalia fuciphaga hirundinacea Stresemann, 1914, Upper Utakwa River, New Guinea.

Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinacea

IUCN Species Status

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

BirdLife Species Account

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

Species Account

The pallid swift (Apus pallidus) is a small bird, superficially similar to a barn swallow or house martin. It is, however, completely unrelated to those passerine species, since the swifts are in the order Apodiformes. The resemblances between the groups are due to convergent evolution reflecting similar life styles.

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cypselus pallidus Shelley, 1870, Egypt.

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cypcelus [sic] Vauxi J. K. Townsend, 1839, Fort Vancouver, Washington, USA.

Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi

Cornell Species Account

A bird of the Pacific Northwest, Vaux's Swift spends almost all of daylight hours in the air foraging for insects.

Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi

Species Account

Vaux's swift (Chaetura vauxi) is a small swift native to North America and northern South America. It was named for the American scientist William Sansom Vaux.

Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi

IUCN Species Status

Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris

Cornell Species Account

A large, black swift with a complete white collar, the White-collared Swift can be found in a wide range of habitats at a wide range of altitudes.

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris

BirdLife Species Account

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Hirundo zonaris Shaw, 1796, Brazil. Research has shown that race albicincta is more restricted in range than had previously been thought. Nine subspecies recognized.

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris

IUCN Species Status

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

Species Account

The white-rumped swift (Apus caffer) is a small swift. Although this bird is superficially similar to a house martin, it is not closely related to that passerine species. The resemblances between the swallows and swifts are due to convergent evolution reflecting similar life styles.

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

BirdLife Species Account

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

IUCN Species Status

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cypselus Caffer M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823, South Africa.

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

BirdLife Species Account

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Macropteryx spodiopygius Peale, 1848, Upolu and Tutuila, Samoa Islands.

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

Species Account

The white-rumped swiftlet (Aerodramus spodiopygius) is a species of swift in the family Apodidae.

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

IUCN Species Status

White-rumped Swiftlet Aerodramus spodiopygius

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

Species Account

The white-throated swift (Aeronautes saxatalis) is a swift of the family Apodidae native to western North America, south to cordilleran western Honduras. It is migratory, and travels to the southern part of its range in winter, as far north along the Pacific coast as the Californian Central Valley; inland its range extends throughout the Great Basin region to extreme southern British Columbia.

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

Cornell Species Account

White-throated Swifts are among the most accomplished fliers of all North American birds, streaking forward at high speed, then suddenly changing direction with lightning-fast adjustments of wing and tail.

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

HBW Species Account

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Contributor

Phil Chantler

Freelance Writer & Ornithologist

p_chantler@yahoo.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 105

Useful Reading

CD of Swift Calls

CD of Swift Calls - used to attract swifts to artificial nest box sites for ?19.90c. http://www.ample.de/

ISBN: 3935329407

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Swiftlets of Borneo - Builders of Edible Nests

Lim Chan Choon & Earl of Cranbrook, 2002, Natural History Publications (Borneo)

ISBN: 983812060X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Swifts - A Guide to the Swifts and Treeswifts of the World

Phil Chantler & Gerald Driessens - Pica 1995

ISBN: 1873403836

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica Conservation Project

Website

Nestcam, reports etc.

Swift Conservation

Website

Our aim is to protect and encourage Swifts, truly amazing birds that live with us for just three months every Summer. We provide advice to homeowners, construction professionals, educators, and government. Find out why Swifts matter, what they give us, and how you can get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction helping them survive and thrive…

Forums & Mailing Lists

martinets-hirondelles

Mailing List

Martinets-hirondelles est une liste de diffusion ornithologique exclusivement consacrée aux Apodidae et Hirundinidae, deux groupes d`espèces éloignés du point de vue de la systématique mais présentant beaucoup de similitudes (aspect, comportement, alimentation, habitats, migration, etc.). Cette liste est ouverte à tous ceux, spécialistes ou amateurs, qui souhaitent échanger leurs connaissances, informations, interrogations ou points de vue sur tout ce qui concerne les martinets et hirondelles d`Europe et d`ailleurs. Postings in English welcomed too…

Swallows-Martins-Swifts-Worldwide

Mailing List

To post to list: Swallows-Martins-Swifts-Worldwide@yahoogroups.com

List contact: Swallows-Martins-Swifts-Worldwide-owner@yahoogroups.com

To subscribe to list: Swallows-Martins-Swifts-Worldwide-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Aimed at specialist and amateur alike, you may record observations, describe interesting behavioral features, ask questions, advise readers about publications, and submit photographs and texts via Files or Photos. Articles and messages in languages other than English may be posted, provided a summary in English is also attached.

Other Links

Action for Swifts

Blog

This blog has been started by a small group of us, as a place to post information that might prove useful to others wanting to help Swifts. Welcome to Action for Swifts, a commentary on the activities, ideas and thoughts of people who care about Swifts. If you have knowledge that you wish to share with fellow Swift enthusiasts, please send it to actionforswifts@gmail.com for publication…

Young Common Swifts roosting in foliage of trees

Website

British Birds Article: Within a restricted area of about 9 ha in Skurup, South Sweden (10 km from the south coast); I observed Common Swifts Apus apus roosting in the foliage of trees and on a lattice-work mast. The behaviour was concentrated in August, when Common Swifts migrate southwards in Sweden. A few observations (one in May, eight in June, and three in September) were made outside August…

Photographers & Artists

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

Wiki

The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) or Apus melba, is a species of swift. Alpine swifts breed in mountains from southern Europe to the Himalaya. Like common swifts, they are strongly migratory, and winter much further south in southern Africa...

Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica Conservation Project

Gallery

[good] in-flight image

Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus

Gallery

Excellent [in-flight] image

Little Swift Apus affinis

Gallery

Excellent close Image

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer

Gallery

Sound recording

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

Gallery

Excellent [in-hand] image

White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatilis

Gallery

Excellent in-flight image