|Conservation status||Uncommon and local, and surveys suggest that populations have been declining significantly in recent years.|
|Habitat||Open sky over mountains, coastal cliffs. Forages widely over any kind of terrain but is still very local in its occurrence, probably limited to regions with suitable nesting sites. Nests on ledges or in crevices in steep cliffs, either along coast or near streams or waterfalls in mountains.|
Forages only while flying. Flight is rapid and often very high; bird scoops insects out of the air with its wide bill. May forage singly or in small flocks.
1. White, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both parents, 24-27 days. Young: Both parents feed and care for young bird, which remains in nest until ready to fly (not climbing about like the young of some other swifts). Age at first flight about 45-49 days.
Both parents feed and care for young bird, which remains in nest until ready to fly (not climbing about like the young of some other swifts). Age at first flight about 45-49 days.
Flying insects. Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including wasps, flies, mayflies, caddisflies, beetles, and others, also spiders. At times may feed heavily on emerging swarms of winged adult ants or termites.
Courtship apparently involves long aerial chases, and the birds also mate while flying. May nest in small colonies. Nest site is on ledge sheltered by overhang or in protected crevice on cliff, along rocky coast or in mountainous country. Mountain nest sites are often behind waterfalls, in spots where nest is continuously damp from spray. Sites are usually inaccessible. Nest is a small saucer of mud, moss, ferns, sometimes lined with fine plant material. Same site may be reused for years, with material added each time.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Summer resident in North America, arriving in late spring, departing in early fall. Their winter range was unknown until very recently, but studies with geolocators (published in 2012) have revealed that at least some of the birds spend the winter in western Brazil.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsLess vocal than other swifts. Gives soft, high-pitched twitter: twit-twit-twit-twit.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Black Swift
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Black Swift
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.