Family Swifts (Apodidae)


Black Swift (Cypseloides niger)


French: Martinet sombre German: Schwarzsegler Spanish: Vencejo negro
Other common names: American Black Swift

Hirundo nigra

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Previously placed in monotypic genus Nephoecetes. Thought to be closely related to C. lemosi, C. rothschildi and C. fumigatus. Darkness of plumage varies within range of nominate; proposed race jamaicensis (from S West Indies) now considered synonymous with nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. n. borealis (Kennerly, 1858) – W North America from SE Alaska and NW British Columbia S to SW USA; presumably winters in South America.
  • C. n. costaricensis Ridgway, 1910 – C Mexico (from S Chihuahua and Hidalgo) S to Costa Rica; winters presumably S of Mexican isthmus.
  • C. n. niger (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – West Indies from Cuba E to Trinidad; partial migrant in Lesser Antilles.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–18 cm; 35–45 g. Rather a large swift with shallow, though distinctly, forked tail; long, broad wings and stocky body; dark plumage with white fringes to... read more


    Calls include a short “chip” or “tip”, often repeated, sometimes continuing into a fast rattle and... read more


    Occurs mainly at 1200–3000 m in Mexico; breeds 555–1400 m in S California, and from... read more

    Food and feeding

    Studies reveal Hymenoptera predominate in diet; 276 prey items from two adults consisted of four species of Hymenoptera, including 200... read more


    Collected in breeding condition Costa Rica May–Jul and Dominica Jun–Jul; mating Jun, Cascade Mts (SW Canada, NW USA), with... read more


    Definite wintering grounds for any race uncertain. May be resident in Greater Antilles, though... read more

    Status and conservation

    VULNERABLE. Until recently, was considered Least Concern. Abundance varies throughout range. Locally frequent to common in Mexico, rare and very localized in California,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P., de Juana, E. & Boesman, P. (2020). Black Swift (Cypseloides niger). 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 27 February 2020).