Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba)


French: Martinet à ventre blanc German: Alpensegler Spanish: Vencejo real

Hirundo Melba


, 1758,



Subspecies name dorabtatai often misspelt dorobtatai. Proposed race striatus (from Mt Kenya) is synonymous with africanus. Supposed presence of breeding individuals of uncertain race in C Mali (Bandiagara Escarpment) has been questioned; this population is believed more likely to be referable to T. aequatorialis#R. Ten subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. m. melba (Linnaeus, 1758) – S Europe (E from Iberia) and N Morocco E through Asia Minor to NW Iran; winters in W, C & E Africa.
  • T. m. tuneti (Tschusi, 1904) – C & E Morocco E to Libya and through Middle East and Iran (except NW) to SE Kazakhstan and W Pakistan; winters in W & E Africa.
  • T. m. archeri (E. J. O. Hartert, 1928) – from Dead Sea depression (Israel–Jordan) S to SW Arabia and Somalia.
  • T. m. maximus (Ogilvie-Grant, 1907) – Mt Rwenzori (Uganda–DRCongo).
  • T. m. africanus (Temminck, 1815) – E & S Africa and SW Angola; S breeders winter in E Africa.
  • T. m. marjoriae (Bradfield, 1935) – Namibia and adjacent W South Africa (NW Northern Cape).
  • T. m. willsi (E. J. O. Hartert, 1896) – Madagascar.
  • T. m. nubifugus (Koelz, 1954) – Himalayas; winters in C India.
  • T. m. dorabtatai (Abdulali, 1965) – W peninsular India.
  • T. m. bakeri (E. J. O. Hartert, 1928) – Sri Lanka.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–22 cm; 76–120 g (nominate), 67–87 g (africanus), 95–110 g (tuneti), 128 g (maximus); wingspan 54–60 cm. Very large... read more


    Most common call is a loud, metallic-sounding trilling phrase lasting c. 2–4 seconds, accelerating... read more


    A polytypic species occurring over a wide range of habitats and foraging over vast areas. In W... read more

    Food and feeding

    Swiss food balls for nestlings averaged 219 prey items, ranging from 11 to 626, mean weight 2·53 g, mainly containing Hemiptera,... read more


    Season Mar–Jun, Israel; laying Morocco Apr–May, Samarkand from early May, C ­Europe mid/late May or in bad weather as late... read more


    Nominate race, tuneti, nubifuga and S African populations of africanus... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally fairly common to common throughout much of range. Locally abundant in some areas, e.g. Turkey, C Asian republics and parts of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P., de Juana, E., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba). 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 18 February 2020).