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Swift

   

Swifts are small aerial birds, spending the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Namibia.

  •  Bat-like Spinetail Neafrapus boehmi
    The Bat-like Spinetail (Neafrapus boehmi) is a species of swift in the Apodidae family.

    It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

     
  • African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
    The African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus) is a small swift. It is very similar to the Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, and was formerly considered to be the same species.

    It is a common resident breeder in tropical Africa. The down and feather nest is glued to the underside of a palm leaf with saliva, which is also used to secure the usually two eggs. This is a fast flying bird of open country, which is strongly associated with Oil Palms.

    This 16cm long species is mainly pale brown in colour. It has long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. The body is slender, and the tail is long and deeply forked, although it is usually held closed. The call is a loud, shrill scream.

    Sexes are similar, and young birds differ mainly in their shorter tails. Palm Swifts have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces, since swifts never settle voluntarily on the ground.

    These swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. Palm Swifts often feed near the ground. They drink on the wing.
     
  • Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
    The Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba) syn. (Apus melba) is a small bird, superficially similar to a large Barn Swallow or House Martin. It is, however, completely unrelated to those passerine species, since swifts are in the order Apodiformes. The resemblances between the groups are due to convergent evolution, reflecting similar life styles.

    These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces. The scientific name comes from the Ancient Greek απους, apous, meaning "without feet". They never settle voluntarily on the ground.

    Alpine Swifts build their nests in colonies in a suitable cliff hole or cave, laying 2-3 eggs. A swift will return to the same site year after year, rebuilding its nest when necessary. These birds pair for life.

    Young swifts in the nest can drop their body temperature and become torpid if bad weather prevents their parents from catching insects nearby.

    Alpine Swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls.

    Alpine Swifts are readily identified by their large size. Their wingspan is 55 cm compared to the 42 cm of Common Swifts. They are black except for a white belly and throat, with a dark neck band separating the white areas. They have a short forked tail and very long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang but may (as in the image) be held stretched straight out. The flight is slower and more powerful than that of their smaller relative.

     
  • Common Swift Apus apus
    The Common Swift (Apus apus) is a small bird, superficially similar to the Barn Swallow or House Martin.

    The scientific name comes from the Ancient Greek απους, apous, meaning "without feet". These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces (hence the German name Mauersegler, literally meaning "wall-glider"). They never settle voluntarily on the ground.
     
  • African Swift Apus barbatus
    The African Swift or African Black Swift, Apus barbatus, is a small bird in the swift family. It breeds in Africa discontinuously from Liberia, Cameroon, Zaire, Uganda and Kenya south to South Africa, and on Madagascar. The breeding habitat is damp mountains, typically between 1,600 - 2,400 m, but less often at lower altitudes. This species feeds readily over lowland, and can form very large flocks, often with other gregarious swifts.

    From a great spot at the top of a cliff at Hlokozi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. East African birds nest in hollow trees, whereas in South Africa this species uses cliffs, usually inland but also on the coast. African Swift is a colonial breeder, sometimes forming mixed colonies with alpine swifts. The nest is a shallow grass cup glued to the substrate with saliva, and the typical clutch is one or two eggs.

    The African Swift is 16-18 cm long and bulky like a pallid swift; it appears entirely blackish-brown except for a small white or pale grey patch on the chin which is not visible from a distance. It has a short forked tail and very long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. This species is very similar to common swift but can be distinguished under optimum viewing conditions by the contrast between its black back and paler secondary wing feathers. The heavier build also gives it a distinctive flight action, which consisted of a steady level flight interspersed with short glides.

    The call is a loud double rasped hissing scream zzzzzzzZZZTT, dissimilar to that of its confusion species.
     
  • Bradfield's Swift Apus bradfieldi
    The Bradfield's Swift (Apus bradfieldi) is a species of swift in the Apodidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.
     
  • Little Swift Apus affinis
    The Little Swift (Apus affinis), or House Swift, is a small bird, superficially similar to a Barn Swallow or House Martin.

    These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces. The scientific name comes from the Greek απους, apous, meaning "without feet". They never settle voluntarily on the ground.

    Little Swifts breed around habitation and cliffs from Africa eastwards through southern tropical Asia to western Indonesia.

    Little Swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls. They are notoriously slow risers in the mornings.

    Little Swifts are readily identified by their small size. Their wingspan is 33 cm compared to the 42 cm of Common Swift. They are black except for a white rump, the white extending on to the flanks. They have a short square tail. The flight is fluttering like a House Martin. The call is a high twittering.
     
  • Horus Swift Apus horus
    The Horus Swift, Apus horus, is a small bird in the swift family. It breeds in sub-Saharan Africa. It has an extensive continuous distribution from eastern and southern South Africa north to southern Zambia and central Mozambique, and has recently colonised the De Hoop Nature Reserve area of the Western Cape.

    Birds in South Africa are migratory, wintering further north. Other populations are resident apart from local movements.

    The Horus Swift breeds in old burrows of bee-eaters, Ground Woodpeckers, kingfishers and martins, which are typically in natural or artificial sandy banks. The flat nest of vegetation and hair, glued with saliva is built at the end of the tunnel and 1-4 eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated for 28 days to hatching, and the fledging period is about 6 weeks.

    This species is not colonial, but the nature of its breeding habitat means that a number of pairs may be scattered through a bee-eater or Banded Martin colony. It feeds at middle levels over adjacent habitats, but avoids large towns.

    The Horus Swift is 13-15 cm long and quite bulky. It appears entirely blackish except for a white patch on the chin and a white rump. It has a medium length forked tail. It has a fluttering flight like Little Swift. Little Swift has a square tail, and more extensive white on the rump than Horus, and White-rumped Swift has a more deeply forked tail and a narrower white band. The call is a buzzing peeeeooo, peeeeooo.

    The paler subspecies A. h. fuscobrunneus of southwestern Angola has a small grey throat patch and a brown rump. The form toulsoni of northwestern Angola and Zimbabwe is a dark morph of nominate A. h. horus, with a dark rump and small throat patch. Both dark forms have sometimes been split as separate species.

    Horus, whose name this bird commemorates, was the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, son of Osiris and Isis.
     
  • White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
    The White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) is a small swift. Although this bird is superficially similar to a House Martin, it is completely unrelated to that passerine species. The resemblances between the swallows and swifts are due to convergent evolution reflecting similar life styles.

    Swifts have very short legs that they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces. They never settle voluntarily on the ground, and spend most of their lives in the air, feeding on insects that they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing.

    White-rumped Swifts breed in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and have expanded into Morocco and southern Spain. The populations in Spain, Morocco and the south of Africa are migratory, although their wintering grounds are not definitively known. Birds in tropical Africa are resident apart from seasonal movements.

    This species appropriates the nests of little swifts and those swallows which build retort-shaped nests. In Europe and north Africa, this usually means the Red-rumped Swallow, but south of the Sahara other species like Wire-tailed Swallow are also parasitised. The original owners of the nests are driven away, or the white-rumps settle in the nest and refuse to move. Once occupied, the nest is lined with feathers and saliva, and one or two eggs are laid.

    The habitat of this species is dictated by that of its hosts, and is therefore normally man-made structures such as bridges and buildings.

    This 14-15.5 cm long species has, like its relatives, a short forked tail and long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. It is entirely dark except for a pale throat patch and a narrow white rump. It is similar to the closely related Little Swift, but is slimmer, darker and has a more forked tail and a narrower white rump.

    This is a quiet species compared to Little Swift, but a twittering trill is sometimes given.
   
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