Living Bird Magazine
White-throated SwiftAeronautes saxatalis
- ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
- FAMILY: Apodidae
White-throated Swifts are hallmarks of the cliffs and canyon walls of scenic western North America. These striking black-and-white birds seem to defy physics as they dive, twist, and turn at incredible speeds, pursuing insects aloft. Courting birds make spectacular dives toward earth, one clinging to the back of the other, separating as they pull out of the plummet just above the ground. They nest in crevices in sheer cliffs, using their saliva to glue a little cup of twigs and moss to the vertical wall.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In spring and summer, White-throated Swifts are very conspicuous in the early morning and late afternoon, as flocks gather to depart for foraging areas or return to nest sites. They return to traditional nesting areas decade after decade, so asking local birders, joining a bird club walk, or using eBird maps can help you get oriented. Listen for their piercing, almost grating calls, and scan the sky for fast, slender shaped birds with much narrower wings than swallows.
- Vencejo Gorjiblanco (Spanish)
- Martinet à gorge blanche (French)
- Cool Facts
- The White-throated Swift sometimes follows farm machinery to capture fleeing insects—a behavior common in gulls and swallows but not in most swifts.
- A highly social creature, the White-throated Swift sleeps in roosts of hundreds of birds, typically in deep cracks or niches in cliffs and large rocks. In the evening they gather above a roost, ascending beyond view and then descending as a group. The flock swirls in front of the roost site as individuals enter the roost several abreast. Occasionally one misses, bouncing off the entrance to rejoin the swirling mass.
- The oldest recorded White-throated Swift was at least 10 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2006.