Plain Swift Apus unicolor Jardine, 1830

Order: Apodiformes Family: Apodidae Status: Breeding in Madeira

Plain SwiftApus unicolor

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Plain Swift Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

A fairly small swift with slim body, narrow, pointed wings and deeply forked tail.

Colour Pattern

Plain swifts are mostly black overall with a very faint paler (not white) throat patch rarely visible.


Its flight is normally with more erratic twist and turns than Pallid swift or Common swift and more
fluttering with faster wingbeats. It is normally in flocks and its high pitched screaming is easily audible.


This Macaronesia species is endemic to Madeira and Canary Islands is normally seen around sea cliffs and towns near the coast all year round, although the population is smaller in winter. In warm summer days it can also be seen up in the mountains.
It has been recorded in Morocco during winter (Chantler and Driessens, 1995).

Distinction from similar species

In Madeira it can easily be mistaken for Common swift which is not so common here but is a vagrant species to the archipelago or for Pallid Swift which also breed in the island. The Common swift is a slightly bigger and bulkier with less forked tail. The Pallid swift is bigger, looks more brownish and the white patch on its chin is larger and more easily seen.

Apus unicolour Biometrics

Wingspan: 38 - 39 cm (Beaman & Madge, 2011)
Total length: 14 - 15 cm (Beaman & Madge, 2011)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: Part of the population stays all year round
Breeding: It nests in small colonies, in crevices on rocky islets or cliffs. It lays 2 eggs on each of its two broods.
Diet: Feeds while flying on drifting spiders and flying insects


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Common breeding bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

Name of this species in other languages

Portuguese: Andorinha da Serra
German: Einfarbsegler
Dutch: Madeiragierzwaluw
Swedish: Enfärgad seglare
Danish: Ensfarvet Sejler
Finish: Madeirankiitäjä
Norwegian: Kanariseiler
Spanish: Vencejo Unicolour
French: Martinet unicoloure
Italian: Rondone unicoloure
Polish: Jerzyk jednobarwny
Slovak: Dážďovník morský
Czech: Rorýs jednobarvý
English synonyms: Plain-coloured Swift

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