Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Mottled Swift (Tachymarptis aequatorialis)


French: Martinet marbré German: Schuppensegler Spanish: Vencejo ecuatorial

Cypselus aequatorialis

J. W. von Müller

, 1851,



Formerly considered conspecific with Apus bradfieldi, and resemblance between the two suggested to be more than superficial; but recent phylogeny placed latter in clade with other Apus (which see). Proposed race schubotzi from W slope of Mt Rwenzori (Uganda–DRCongo) considered not distinct from nominate race and included within it; likewise, “Apus reichenowi” (from S Kenya) is a synonym of nominate. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. a. lowei (Bannerman, 1920) – Sierra Leone E, very patchily, to Nigeria; probably this race in Mali#R.
  • T. a. bamendae (Serle, 1949) – NW Cameroon.
  • T. a. furensis (Lynes, 1920) – Darfur (W Sudan).
  • T. a. aequatorialis (J. W. von Müller, 1851) – Eritrea and Ethiopia S to S Mozambique and E Zimbabwe; also WC Angola.
  • T. a. gelidus (Brooke, 1967) – SW Zimbabwe.
  • Descriptive notes

    23 cm; male 84–104 g (mean 92·5 g), female 83–105 g (mean 96 g). Easily separated from only congeneric, T. melba, as latter has extensive white... read more


    Infrequently given calls are described as harsh and shrill, and considered not unlike those of ... read more


    Breeding restricted to granite highlands, where recorded up to 3000 m, occasionally higher,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Recorded prey comprises ants, including Crematogaster (Acrocoelia), ichneumon flies (Ichneumonidae) with other... read more


    Laying dates: Ghana Jun and Oct, Nigeria possibly Nov–Jun, Ethiopia Jul, Kenya Feb–Mar, probably with two breeding seasons at... read more


    Poorly understood. Non-breeding dispersal implied by wide scatter of records away from breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant in much of range, and distribution postulated to have recently shifted southwards in Ivory Coast. Very localized within W African... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Mottled Swift (Tachymarptis aequatorialis). 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).