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American black swift

Cypseloides niger

Photo by Glen Tepke (Mango Verde)

Common name:
American black swift (en); andorinhão-preto-americano (pt); martinet sombre (fr); vencejo negro (es); schwarzsegler (de)

Order Apodiformes
Family Apodidae

This species breeds in a few patches along western North America and Central America, namely in southern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, in Washington, Montana, California and Colorado, United States, in western and southern Mexico, and south to Panama. They are also found in the Caribbean, from Cuba and Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago. Most populations migrate, but it remains unclear where most of the birds spend the winter, although some of the birds have been tracked as far south as Brazil.

These birds are 18 cm long and weigh 35-45 g.

The American black swift breeds in sea caves, coastal cliffs and wet cliffs in inland canyons. They also use moist tropical forests and second growths, from sea level up to an altitude of 3.000 m.

They hunt insects on the wing, mostly taking flying ants and termites, but also bees, wasps, beetles, flies and leafhoppers.

In North America, these birds breed in June-September. The nest is made of mud, and sometimes grasses, sea weeds or moss and attached to a rocky wall, most often in an inaccessible cliff or cave and near dripping water sources such as waterfalls. The female lays a single eggs, which is incubated by both parents for 23-29 days. The chick is fed by both parents and fledges 47-50 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range. There are no reliable data on population sizes, but the population appears to have declined by 6% over the last 40 years in the United States and larger declines may have taken place in Mexico. Due to their very specific nesting site requirements they may be threatened by alteration of the normal hydrological cycle due to habitat destruction, alteration of stream flow, or water diversions

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