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Black Swift

Silhouette swiftswift
Black SwiftCypseloides niger
  • ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
  • FAMILY: Apodidae

Basic Description

The Black Swift dances high in the sky on sickle-shaped wings, where it feasts on winged ants. On sunny days it flies so high that it's just a speck. This large, black swift nests on dark and inaccessible ledges, often behind waterfalls, but much of the rest of its life is shrouded in mystery. It spends the winter somewhere in South America and the Caribbean, where it blends in with similar-looking swifts. Sadly, one of the few things we know about this species is its U.S./Canada population has dropped by more than 90% since 1970.

More ID Info
image of range map for Black Swift
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Finding a Black Swift can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there are a few ways to increase your odds. Look for them on the breeding grounds near waterfalls, but get there early before they leave their roosting site for the day. They forage over wide areas, so it's best to catch them as they are about to leave their nighttime roost. Head out on a cloudy and overcast day when they forage lower to the ground. Look for a hefty (for a swift) black bird flying with stiff but steady wingbeats.

Other Names

  • Vencejo Negro (Spanish)
  • Martinet sombre (French)
  • Cool Facts