Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Plain Swift (Apus unicolor)


French: Martinet unicolore German: Einfarbsegler Spanish: Vencejo unicolor

Cypselus unicolor


, 1830,



Recent molecular phylogeny#R placed this species in a clade with A. niansae, A. bradfieldi, A. barbatus, A. berliozi, A. alexandri, A. pallidus and A. apus. Has previously been thought to be closest to A. niansae and A. apus; sometimes considered conspecific with both, and also with A. barbatus. In the past, considered conspecific with A. alexandri. Taxon Schoutedenapus myoptilus poensis formerly treated as a race of present species. Monotypic.


Canary Is and Madeira Is; possibly breeds in Morocco. Winters in Morocco and Mauritania.

Descriptive notes

14–15 cm. Medium-sized swift with even more streamlined outline than A. apus, long, deeply forked tail and long thin wings; black-brown outer wing, tail and... read more


Most common call is a shrill, piercing, wheezy scream “srreeeeeEEeh”, with a diagnostic rising and... read more


Throughout established range, and tentative Moroccan range where frequents sea cliffs, never found... read more

Food and feeding

Typically insectivorous; in a study of food items brought to nestlings in Tenerife I, 97.3% were insects, mostly Hemiptera, Diptera,... read more


Season Mar–Aug. Colonial. Nests in variety of natural sites, such as caves and cliffs, where suitable rock niches occur, or under... read more


Numbers reduced in winter on Canary Is; migrants probably winter mainly in NW Africa, as winter... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Madeira and Canary Islands EBA. Common and apparently stable. Madeira is believed to have 1000–2000... read more

Recommended citation

Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Plain Swift (Apus unicolor). 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 30 March 2020).