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Scientific classification
Order: Apodiformes
Family†: Apodidae
many:see species list
† see also: hummingbird
tree swift

The swifts are the most aerial of birds, some, like the Common Swift even sleeping on the wing.

They are superficially similar to swallows but are completely unrelated to those passerine species, since swifts are in the separate order Apodiformes, which they share with the hummingbirds.

The resemblances between the groups are due to convergent evolution reflecting similar life styles based on catching insects in flight.

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

Like swallows and martins, the swifts of temperate regions are strongly migratory, and they winter in the tropics.

Many swifts have a characteristic shape, with a short forked tail and very long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. The flight is characterised by a distinctive "flicking" action quite different from swallows.

The nest is glued to a vertical surface with saliva, and the genus Aerodramus use only that substance, which is the basis for bird's nest soup[?]


In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the old order Apodiformes is split. Swifts remain in that order, but hummingbirds are put into a new order, Trochiliformes.

Species list

Family: Apodidae

  • Tepui Swift, Cypseloides phelpsi
  • Black Swift, Cypseloides niger
  • White-chested Swift, Cypseloides lemosi
  • Rothschild's Swift, Cypseloides rothschildi
  • Sooty Swift, Cypseloides fumigatus
  • White-fronted Swift, Cypseloides storeri
  • Spot-fronted Swift, Cypseloides cherriei
  • White-chinned Swift, Cypseloides cryptus
  • Great Dusky Swift, Cypseloides senex

  • Chestnut-collared Swift, Streptoprocne rutila
  • White-naped Swift, Streptoprocne semicollaris
  • White-collared Swift, Streptoprocne zonaris
  • Biscutate Swift, Streptoprocne biscutata

  • Waterfall Swift, Hydrochous gigas

  • Glossy Swiftlet, Aerodramus esculenta
  • Cave Swiftlet, Aerodramus linchi
  • Pygmy Swiftlet, Aerodramus troglodytes
  • Seychelles Swiftlet, Aerodramus elaphrus
  • Mascarene Swiftlet, Aerodramus francicus
  • Indian Swiftlet, Aerodramus unicolor
  • Moluccan Swiftlet, Aerodramus infuscatus
  • Philippine Swiftlet, Aerodramus mearnsi
  • Mountain Swiftlet, Aerodramus hirundinaceus
  • White-rumped Swiftlet, Aerodramus spodiopygius
  • Australian Swiftlet, Aerodramus terraereginae
  • Himalayan Swiftlet, Aerodramus brevirostris
  • Indochinese Swiftlet, Aerodramus rogersi
  • Volcano Swiftlet, Aerodramus vulcanorum
  • Whitehead's Swiftlet, Aerodramus whiteheadi
  • Bare-legged Swiftlet, Aerodramus nuditarsus
  • Mayr's Swiftlet, Aerodramus orientalis
  • Palawan Swiftlet, Aerodramus palawanensis
  • Uniform Swiftlet, Aerodramus vanikorensis
  • Mossy-nest Swiftlet, Aerodramus salangana
  • Palau Swiftlet, Aerodramus pelewensis
  • Guam Swiftlet, Aerodramus bartschi
  • Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Aerodramus inquietus
  • Atiu Swiftlet, Aerodramus sawtelli
  • Polynesian Swiftlet, Aerodramus leucophaeus
  • Marquesan Swiftlet, Aerodramus ocistus
  • Black-nest Swiftlet, Aerodramus maximus
  • Edible-nest Swiftlet[?], Aerodramus fuciphagus
  • German's Swiftlet, Aerodramus germani
  • Papuan Swiftlet, Aerodramus papuensis

  • Scarce Swift, Schoutedenapus myoptilus
  • Schouteden's Swift, Schoutedenapus schoutedeni

  • Philippine Needletail, Mearnsia picina
  • Papuan Needletail, Mearnsia novaeguineae

  • Malagasy Spinetail, Zoonavena grandidieri
  • Sao Tome Spinetail, Zoonavena thomensis
  • White-rumped Needletail, Zoonavena sylvatica

  • Mottled Spinetail, Telacanthura ussheri
  • Black Spinetail, Telacanthura melanopygia

  • Silver-rumped Needletail, Rhaphidura leucopygialis
  • Sabine's Spinetail, Rhaphidura sabini

  • Cassin's Spinetail, Neafrapus cassini
  • Bat-like Spinetail, Neafrapus boehmi

  • White-throated Needletail[?], Hirundapus caudacutus
  • Silver-backed Needletail, Hirundapus cochinchinensis
  • Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus
  • Purple Needletail, Hirundapus celebensis

  • Band-rumped Swift, Chaetura spinicauda
  • Lesser Antillean Swift, Chaetura martinica
  • Gray-rumped Swift, Chaetura cinereiventris
  • Pale-rumped Swift, Chaetura egregia
  • Chimney Swift[?], Chaetura pelagica
  • Vaux's Swift, Chaetura vauxi
  • Chapman's Swift, Chaetura chapmani
  • Short-tailed Swift, Chaetura brachyura
  • Ashy-tailed Swift, Chaetura andrei

  • White-throated Swift, Aeronautes saxatalis
  • White-tipped Swift, Aeronautes montivagus
  • Andean Swift, Aeronautes andecolus

  • Antillean Palm-Swift, Tachornis phoenicobia
  • Pygmy Swift, Tachornis furcata
  • Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Tachornis squamata

  • Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Panyptila sanctihieronymi
  • Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Panyptila cayennensis

  • Alpine Swift[?], Tachymarptis melba
  • Mottled Swift, Tachymarptis aequatorialis

  • Alexander's Swift, Apus alexandri
  • Common Swift, Apus apus
  • Plain Swift, Apus unicolor
  • Nyanza Swift, Apus niansae
  • Pallid Swift, Apus pallidus
  • African Swift, Apus barbatus
  • Forbes-Watson's Swift, Apus berliozi
  • Bradfield's Swift, Apus bradfieldi
  • Madagascar Swift, Apus balstoni
  • Fork-tailed Swift, Apus pacificus
  • Dark-rumped Swift, Apus acuticauda
  • Little Swift[?], Apus affinis
  • House Swift[?], Apus nipalensis
  • Horus Swift, Apus horus
  • White-rumped Swift, Apus caffer
  • Bates' Swift Apus batesi

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