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Black Swift

These birds are very difficult to spot, as they live near cliffs and their population is threatened.

The Black Swift, while fascinating in many ways, is poorly studied. The first nest was not found until 1901, and even today very few nesting locations are known. Black Swift nests are generally located either near or behind waterfalls and are therefore very difficult to access for study.

Black Swifts catch their prey in the air, and are known to forage very high up. Their primary food is winged ants. They drink by flying low over water and dipping their bill to the surface.


Description of the Black Swift


The Black Swift is a fairly large swift with long, narrow wings and a black body. The tail is slightly forked.

black swift


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Similar to adults but speckled with white.


Open sky in mountainous and coastal areas.




Forages by capturing flying insects in midair.


Breeds in parts of western North America and winters in South America.

Fun Facts

Winged ants make a up a significant portion of the Black Swift’s diet.

Flocks of hundreds or thousands of Black Swifts can be seen during migration.


Quiet chips are only occasionally made.


Similar Species

Chimney Swifts and Vaux’s Swifts are smaller and paler.



The nest is made of moss, mud, and ferns and is placed in an inaccessible crevice in a cliff, sometimes behind a waterfall.

Number: 1.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:  
– Young hatch at 24-27 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) 45-49 days after hatching.


Bent Life History of the Black Swift


About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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