Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Pacific Swift (Apus pacificus)


French: Martinet de Sibérie German: Pazifiksegler Spanish: Vencejo del Pacífico
Other common names: Fork-tailed Swift

Hirundo pacifica


, 1801,

New South Wales, Australia


Recent molecular phylogeny#R placed this species in a clade with A. acuticauda, with which it was in the past occasionally considered conspecific. Recent reassessment#R proposed splitting all taxa accepted below into four species; some characters itemized, however, could not be determined in independent review of material, while others involved averages and, in case of leuconyx, proven vs unproven use of other birds’ nests, thus taxa retained here as subspecies pending further documentation of evidence including “clear” differences in voice#R. Taxon cooki recently found to be closer genetically to A. acuticauda, so molecular study of these taxa evidently required#R. Case for recognizing race salimali and replacing name kanoi with kurodae#R accepted here; some recent authors retain name kanoi, suspecting that type of kurodae “could represent nominate pacificus#R. Otherwise, proposed race shiraii (S Izu Is, Japan) included within nominate. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. p. pacificus (Latham, 1801) – Pacific Swift – Siberia E to Kamchatka and N Japan; winters in Indonesia, Melanesia, Australia and possibly NE India (Assam, Nagaland, Manipur).
  • A. p. kurodae Domaniewski, 1933 – E China, S Japan, Taiwan, presumably Batan and Babuyan Is (Philippines); winters in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia; also recorded in NE India (Assam).
  • A. p. salimali Lack, 1958 – Salim Ali's Swift – E Tibetan Plateau and adjacent China (W Sichuan); winter range unknown.
  • A. p. leuconyx (Blyth, 1845) – Blyth's Swift – N Pakistan (Murree Hills, where may no longer breed) E through outer Himalayas and Assam hills; winters in India.
  • A. p. cooki (Harington, 1913) – Cook's Swift – SE Asia; winters S to N peninsular Thailand.
  • May breed (race unknown) also in Batan Is and Babuyan Is#R (N Philippines).

    Descriptive notes

    17–19·5 cm; 22–54 g. Large swift, with rakish structure, long pointed wings, long, deeply forked tail, and thickset outer tail tapering little from body.... read more


    Most common call is a shrill, piercing, wheezy or reedy scream “srreeeeerrr”, overslurred with top... read more


    Occurs over a vast range of habitats, both breeding and wintering, from low Arctic to tropics,... read more

    Food and feeding

    On Chinese breeding grounds, prey recorded from nine insect orders, Diptera predominating. Flying termites recorded for race leuconyx... read more


    Breeds Langtang in Nepal, Mar–May, Himalayas Apr–Jul, and Japan Jun–Aug; eggs recorded from late May on Yellow Sea... read more


    Nominate race a long-distance migrant, while 3 more S races mainly resident or short-distance... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Rare in Pakistan, but not uncommon in other Himalayan areas. Generally common throughout rest of breeding and wintering range. Large... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P., de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pacific Swift (Apus pacificus). 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 20 February 2020).