Photo: H. Clarke/Vireo

White-throated Swift

Aeronautes saxatalis

Around rocky cliffs and canyon edges in the west, little groups of these elegant swifts go hurtling past the crags, calling in shrill voices. This species has been claimed to be one of our fastest flying birds, and any observer who has seen them pass at close range will believe it. White-throated Swifts are very wide-ranging, probably foraging in the air many miles from their nesting sites at times.
Conservation status Like other swifts, could be affected by overuse of pesticides. Currently common and widespread, numbers apparently stable.
Family Swifts
Habitat Open sky, cruising widely. May be seen in the air over virtually any western habitat, wherever there might be flying insects. Breeds in crevices in cliffs, mostly in dry mountains and canyons, locally on sea cliffs.
Around rocky cliffs and canyon edges in the west, little groups of these elegant swifts go hurtling past the crags, calling in shrill voices. This species has been claimed to be one of our fastest flying birds, and any observer who has seen them pass at close range will believe it. White-throated Swifts are very wide-ranging, probably foraging in the air many miles from their nesting sites at times.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages only in flight. May forage high or low, depending on weather conditions. Typically seen foraging in flocks.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. White, often becoming stained or spotted in the nest. Incubation is probably by both parents, about 20-27 days. Young: Apparently fed by both parents. Young are probably able to climb about inside nesting crevice before they are old enough to fly. Age at first flight may be about six weeks.


Young

Apparently fed by both parents. Young are probably able to climb about inside nesting crevice before they are old enough to fly. Age at first flight may be about six weeks.

Diet

Flying insects. Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including flies, beetles, true bugs, wasps, and others. May feed heavily on winged adult ants during an emergence of these insects.


Nesting

Many details of nesting remain poorly known, partly because the nest sites are so inaccessible. Courtship involves aerial displays; birds also mate while in flight, sometimes joining and then tumbling down for hundreds of feet. Nest site is usually in narrow vertical crevice in high cliff. Sometimes nests in crevices in buildings. Same site may be used for many years. Nest is shaped like shallow half saucer; made of feathers, weeds, grasses, glued together and to wall of crevice with the birds' saliva.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Northern breeders move south in fall. Found all year in much of southwest (only swift likely to be seen in North America in winter). During cool winter weather, may become torpid to conserve energy.

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Migration

Northern breeders move south in fall. Found all year in much of southwest (only swift likely to be seen in North America in winter). During cool winter weather, may become torpid to conserve energy.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A prolonged series of grating notes, jee-jee-jee-jee-jee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Swifts Swallow-like Birds

White-throated Swift

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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