Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Alexander's Swift (Apus alexandri)


French: Martinet du Cap-Vert German: Alexandersegler Spanish: Vencejo de Cabo Verde
Other common names: Cape Verde Swift

Apus unicolor alexandri

E. J. O. Hartert

, 1901,

São Nicolau, Cape Verde Islands


Recent molecular phylogeny#R placed this species in a clade with A. niansae, A. bradfieldi, A. barbatus, A. berliozi, A. unicolor, A. pallidus and A. apus. Formerly considered conspecific with A. unicolor; recently suggested as being more closely related to A. niansae, A. barbatus or A. pallidus, although these proposals appear to be based mainly on speculation. Only known eggs, described in 1898, were considered unique among Apodiformes in being speckled reddish-brown; a much later clutch reported in 1986, however, consisted of pure white eggs (like those of other Apodiformes), suggesting that first set was probably misidentified; implications drawn from first eggs have greatly confused the matter of relationships. Monotypic.


Cape Verde Is: occurs throughout (except Santa Luzia), including small islet of Raso, but thought to breed only on Santiago, Fogo, Brava, Santo Antão and São Nicolau.

Descriptive notes

13 cm. Small, short-winged swift with relatively shallow tail-fork and ­distinctive fluttering flight; darkest black-brown on outer wing, wing-coverts, tail and mantle,... read more


Most common call similar to scream of A. apus, but higher-pitched, less piercing and... read more


Occurs over all habitats on small island range, foraging from sea-level up to peaks of highest... read more

Food and feeding

Forages alone or in parties of up to 30.


Noted visiting nest-sites Aug–Sept; eggs collected early Apr and mid-Nov; breeding suspected Jan–Mar, early Jun and Aug–... read more


Resident, though foraging birds, or non-breeders, occur on E islands and São Vicente.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Cape Verde Islands EBA. Common, with largest numbers on Fogo and Brava. Population not accurately censused, but... read more

Recommended citation

Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Alexander's Swift (Apus alexandri). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 April 2020).