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African Swift - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 20:41, 16 February 2011 by Wintibird (talk | contribs)
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Alternative Name: African Black Swift

Photo by Alan Manson
Hlokozi, near Highflats, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Apus barbatus

Includes: Fernando Po Swift


Length 19 cm, mass 42 g.
Adult: Head blackish brown except for pale grey-brown forehead, lores and supercilium. Mantle black and back to tail dark brown. The primaries are blackish, the outermost being the darkest. From above, the secondaries and adjascent greater coverts are greyish brown, contrasting with darker back and primaries. Throat and upper breast pale, and the rest of the under parts are blackish.
The bill is black and the eyes dark brown.

Similar Species

Bradfield's Swift is paler and greyer and the upper parts are more uniformly coloured. The Common Swift is more slender, its wings are more uniformly dark and its tail is longer and more deeply forked.


Widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa:
Western Africa: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola
Eastern Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi
Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Swaziland
African Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Mayotte

Some populations are resident, others are intra-African migrants.


Closely related to Bradfield's Swift, Pallid Swift and Forbes-Watson's Swift.


  • A. b. glanvillei:
  • A. b. sladeniae :
  • A. b. serlei:
  • A. b. roehli:
  • A. b. hollidayi:
  • A. b. oreobates:
  • A. b. barbatus:

Madagascar Swift is sometimes included in this species.


Breeds on cliffs and feeds aerially over a wide variety of vegetation types, favouring open areas, especially high-altitude grasslands.



Often feed alone, but sometimes in flocks. Feeds on insects caught in flight; sometimes feeds at night. Attracted to emergences of termite alates and to fires.


Breeds in colonies on cliffs (sometimes trees in eastern Africa). Shallow nest built in crevice using feathers, grass and plant down collected aerially. One to two white eggs are laid (September to February in southern Africa).


The call is a screaming 'shree', higher-pitched than the call of the Common Swift, and repeated frequently in aerial displays.


  1. Clements, JF. 2008. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2008. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.
  2. Avibase
  3. Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ & Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Robert's Birds of Southern Africa, 7th edition. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN 0620340533

Recommended Citation

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