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Species Guide
A photo of a Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Apus pallidus

The Pallid Swift, Apus pallidus, is a bird of the swift family, Apodidae, known for its remarkable aerial lifestyle. This species is characterized by its relatively short legs, which are used exclusively for clinging to vertical surfaces, as they never voluntarily settle on the ground. The Pallid Swift is a master of the skies, catching insects in flight with its beak and even drinking while on the wing.

Identification Tips

With a body length of 16–17 cm (6.3–6.7 in), the Pallid Swift can be a challenge to distinguish from the Common Swift. However, with keen observation, one can note its chunkier build and browner plumage. The white throat patch is a distinctive feature, often visible from afar. The flight feathers, underparts, and rump are slightly paler, providing more contrast than the Common Swift. Additionally, the belly appears scalier, and the flight action is subtly different. When heard, its call is a loud, dry scream, which may sound more disyllabic compared to its relative.


The Pallid Swift breeds on cliffs and under the eaves of buildings in the Mediterranean region, as well as on the Canary Islands and Madeira.


This species is predominantly found in its breeding areas, with rare occurrences north of these regions. Due to identification challenges, they may be under-recorded in these northern locales. The Pallid Swift's southerly range means it arrives earlier and departs later than the Common Swift, so swifts observed particularly early or late in the season should be scrutinized for potential identification.


The Pallid Swift is a migratory bird, akin to swallows, spending its winters in southern Africa or southeast Asia. Studies using GPS technology have revealed that Pallid Swifts from Gibraltar exhibit remarkable site fidelity to their African wintering grounds, returning to the same areas year after year. These birds lead an almost exclusively airborne existence outside of the breeding season, rarely coming to land.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Pallid Swift are similar to those of the Common Swift, characterized by a loud and dry scream. The call may be distinguished by a more disyllabic quality.


During the breeding season, Pallid Swifts lay two eggs in their chosen nesting sites on cliffs or building eaves.

Similar Species

The Common Swift is the species most similar to the Pallid Swift, with careful observation required for accurate identification.

Diet and Feeding

Pallid Swifts are insectivorous, capturing their prey in flight. Their diet consists of airborne insects which they adeptly snatch with their beaks during their continuous flight.

Conservation status

The Pallid Swift is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

Pallid Swift Sounds

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