African Black Swift

The African Black Swift (Apus barbatus) is a small passerine bird in the Apodidae family of swifts. It is highly aerial, spending most of its life in the air. It is not related to swallows; it is in the same Order as hummingbirds.

The African Black Swift is black-brown except for a small, white or pale-grey patch on its chin. It has a short, forked tail. It has long, swept-back wings, which can rotate at the base (like hummingbird wings). It has short legs.

African Black Swift

It grows to 16-18 centimetres (6-7 inches) in length. 

The African Black Swift is native to Africa, from Liberia, Cameroon, Zaire, Uganda, and Kenya, to South Africa. It is migratory, and spends winter in warm locations.

It can be seen in large flocks. It spends the majority of its life flying, and rarely comes to the ground to rest. Sometimes, it will rest on vertical surfaces, such as walls or cliff faces. 

It is a very fast flyer—about 112 kilometres per hour (70 miles per hour). It can change direction very quickly.  

It is diurnal, active during the day. It eats insects, which it catches in mid air.

Its nest is cup-shaped and made of grass. The female lays 1-2 eggs, which hatch after 19-23 days. Both parents look after the eggs and the chicks. The chicks leave the nest after 6-8 weeks.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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