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A photo of a White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer)
White-rumped Swift

White-rumped Swift

Apus caffer

The White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) is a small, agile bird, measuring 14–15.5 cm in length. It is characterized by its long, swept-back wings that form a crescent or boomerang shape, and a short, forked tail. The plumage is predominantly dark with the exception of a pale throat patch and a distinctive narrow white rump, which contrasts sharply with its darker body.

Identification Tips

To identify the White-rumped Swift, look for its slimmer build and darker coloration compared to the Little Swift. The tail is more deeply forked, and the white rump is narrower, providing key visual cues to distinguish between these closely related species.

Habitat

The White-rumped Swift is typically found in areas where its hosts, such as the Red-rumped Swallow, build their nests. This often leads them to man-made structures like bridges and buildings, where they can take over existing nests.

Distribution

This swift has a broad breeding range across sub-Saharan Africa, extending into Morocco and southern Spain. While tropical African populations are generally resident, those in Spain, Morocco, and southern Africa are migratory. Their exact wintering grounds remain a mystery, but seasonal movements are noted.

Behaviour

The White-rumped Swift exhibits typical swift-like behavior, spending the majority of its life airborne. It has very short legs used only for clinging to vertical surfaces and never voluntarily lands on the ground. It captures insects mid-flight for nourishment and is known to drink while on the wing.

Song & Calls

Compared to its relative, the Little Swift, the White-rumped Swift is a quieter bird. However, it does produce a twittering trill that can occasionally be heard.

Breeding

This species is known for taking over the nests of other birds, such as the Little Swift and various swallows that construct retort-shaped nests. The White-rumped Swift will either drive away the original nest owners or simply occupy the nest and refuse to leave. Once in possession, they line the nest with feathers and saliva and lay one or two eggs.

Similar Species

The White-rumped Swift can be confused with the Little Swift, but careful observation of its slimmer profile, more forked tail, and narrower white rump can help differentiate the two.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the White-rumped Swift consists primarily of insects, which they adeptly catch with their beaks while in flight.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the White-rumped Swift as Least Concern, indicating that the species does not currently face any significant threats to its survival.

White-rumped Swift Sounds

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