• Plain Swift


Scientific name
Apus unicolor (Jardine, 1830)

Taxonomic Status
Endemic Species to Macaronesia

Red Data Book Status
Least Concern

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  • Identification

The Plain Swift has a plumage mainly brown-black, except the grey-brown small throat patch. The upperparts are lighter while the underparts are slightly darker. The flight is very fast characterized by faster wing beats and with sudden turns. 

  • Voice

A sound similar to srrriiiii-srriiiiiii-sriiiiii

  • Ecology

Breeds in colonies in fissures in cliffs where it lays a clutch of 2 eggs. Diet is mainly on invertebrates like insects and spiders that they caught during flight. The specie occupies a different range of habitats such as coastal areas and the highest peaks.

  • Distribution

An endemic species to Macaronesia that breeds in the archipelago of Canaries and Madeira. In Madeira occurs all around the island but in the winter season most part of the population possibly migrates to the coast of North Africa or south of the Sahara. 


That the scientific name Apus comes from the Greek which mean "without feet”.


  • Plain Swift Sightings


September 2013 - Porto Santo Island © Birds & Company


October 2013 - Porto Santo Island © Birds & Company

  • Literature

[1] Equipa Atlas 2008. Atlas das Aves Nidificantes em Portugal (1999-2005). Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade, Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, Parque Natural da Madeira e Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e do Mar. Assírio & Alvim. Lisboa.  

[2] Garcia-del-Rey, E., Gosler, A.G., Gonzalez, J. and Wink, M. (2008) Sexual size dimorphism and moult in the plain swift Apus unicolor. Ringing & Migration, 24: 81-87.

[3] Garcia-del-Rey, E. (2006) Notes on the breeding biology of plain swift Apus unicolor on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. African Bird Club Bulletin, 13(1): 56-59

[4] Mullarney, Killian; Svensson, Lars; Zetterstrom, Dan; Grant, Peter (1999). Collins Bird Guide. London: Collins. 



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