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Species Guide

Spot-fronted Swift

Cypseloides cherriei

The Spot-fronted Swift, a bird of the swift family Apodidae, is a creature of the skies, cloaked in blackish-brown plumage. With a length of approximately 14 cm (5.5 in) and a weight near 23 g (0.81 oz), both male and female share a similar appearance. Their underwings are tinged with gray, and a distinctive white chin graces their lower beak. The species earns its name from the conspicuous white spots located beside the bill and just behind the eyes, a striking contrast to their otherwise dark feathers.

Identification Tips

When observing these swifts, look for their almost uniform blackish-brown coloration, accented by grayish underwings. The white chin and the bright white spots near the bill and behind the eyes are key features that distinguish them from other swifts.


The Spot-fronted Swift favors montane forests, soaring at elevations typically between 1,100 and 2,200 meters (3,600 and 7,200 feet), though they have been spotted as low as 300 meters (980 feet) in Ecuador.


This species has a scattered presence across its range, which includes Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Their sightings are sporadic, with a few known locations in Panama and more numerous, yet still isolated, observations in Colombia and Ecuador.


The Spot-fronted Swift's behavior regarding residency or migration remains a mystery. Some evidence suggests possible elevational movements, which could represent either migratory patterns or daily foraging activities.


As aerial insectivores, these swifts predominantly feast on Hemiptera (true bugs) and Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants). They are known to forage in flocks, sometimes numbering up to 50 individuals, and may occasionally join other swift species in their aerial pursuits.


The breeding season of the Spot-fronted Swift spans at least from April to July, with geographical variations. They construct a cup-shaped nest from moss, ferns, and mud, strategically placed on vertical rock faces near or above water. A single egg is laid, and studies from Costa Rica suggest an incubation period of 26 to 28 days, with fledging occurring 65 to 70 days post-hatching.


The flight call of the Spot-fronted Swift has been likened to the sound of a laser gun, a distinctive "chirr chi-t-t-ti chirr" that can be heard as they navigate the air currents.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Spot-fronted Swift as Data Deficient, indicating a lack of comprehensive data on their distribution, population size, and trends. Despite this, the population is currently believed to be stable.

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Spot-fronted Swifts on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
James Leone
13 Jan 2024 - 10:40pm

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