American Black Swift (Cypseloides niger)

American Black Swift

[order] APODIFORMES | [family] Apodidae | [latin] Cypseloides niger | [UK] American Black Swift | [FR] Martinet pluie | [DE] Schwarzsegler | [ES] Vencejo Negro | [NL] Zwarte Gierzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Cypseloides niger NA, MA w SA
Cypseloides niger borealis se Alaska to sw USA
Cypseloides niger costaricensis c Mexico to Costa Rica
Cypseloides niger niger West Indies, Trinidad

Physical charateristics

A large black swift with a notched tail (sometimes fanned). At close range, a touch of white on the forehead. Flight more leisurely than that of other United States swifts.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 23 days incubation max.: 27 days
fledging min.: 43 days fledging max.: 47 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


North America, Middle America : West


Open sky over mountain country, coastal cliff 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.


Courtship apparently involves long aerial chases, and the birds also mate while flying. May nest in small colonies.
b 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 or near waterfalls, in spots where nest is continuously damp from spray. Sites are usually inacces
sible. Nest is small saucer of mud, moss, ferns, sometimes lined with fine plant material. Same site may be reused for years, with material added each time.
b Eggs: 1. White, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both parents, 24-27 days.
b 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. Probably just 1 brood per year.

Feeding habits

Flying insects.
Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including wasps, flies, mayflies, caddisflies, beetles, leafhoppers, moths, and others. At times may feed heavily on emerging swarms of winged adult ants or termites. Also eats spiders carried aloft by updrafts.

b Behavior: 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.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
American Black Swift status Least Concern


Southeastern Alaska to Costa Rica; West Indies. b
Migration: Only a summer resident in North America, arriving in late spring, departing in early fall. Winter range of North American birds not well known. Permanent resident populations occur in Mexico, Central America, West Indies.

Distribution map

American Black Swift distribution range map

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