Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Polynesian Swiftlet (Aerodramus leucophaeus)


French: Salangane de la Société German: Polynesiensalangane Spanish: Salangana polinesia

Macropteryx leucophæus


, 1848,



Has been considered closely related to A. sawtelli, or even to be conspecific with it, but apparently differs in nest habits. Race ocistus (with gilliardi) sometimes considered a distinct species, being intermediate in some features between nominate race and A. sawtelli; case rests on these taxa having slightly shorter wings (1), deeper tail fork (2) and “dusky-brown” vs “fuscous” back (1), but ocistus has feathered tarsi while gilliardi and leucophaeus have bare tarsi#R. Variation in relative pallor of rump within birds of Tahitian population led to past recognition of pale-rumped race “thespesius”, but this now considered to fall within normal range of variation of nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. l. leucophaeus (Peale, 1848) – Tahiti Swiftlet – Tahiti (E Society Is); formerly on Huahine and possibly Bora Bora; recorded in Moorea as vagrant from Tahiti.
  • A. l. ocistus (Oberholser, 1906) – Marquesas Swiftlet – Eiao, Nuku Hiva and Ua Huka (N Marquesas).
  • A. l. gilliardi (Somadikarta, 1994) – Ua Pu, Hiva Oa and Tahuata (S Marquesas).
  • Descriptive notes

    11 cm. Medium-sized swiftlet with proportionally long, forked tail; plumage appears rather uniform; dark-brown upperparts with grey rump, which may be paler (“... read more


    Call is a dry, reeling trill “trrrrrr” or more buzzy “tzzzzz”, repeated at intervals. Echolocating... read more


    Occurs over riverine habitats, rocky valleys and humid forests.

    Food and feeding

    Race ocistus apparently more gregarious than nominate race (observed in flocks of up to 100), perhaps due to larger size of... read more


    Nests collected Marquesas in Oct. Colonial, up to 300 birds reported. Wide variety of nest-sites: caves, deep or shallow, depressions under... read more


    Resident, but may be only vagrant to Moorea (nominate race, in 1973) and single bird recently (Mar... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. When treated as two distinct species both forms are restricted-range species: leucophaeus present in Society Islands EBA; ocistus... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Polynesian Swiftlet (Aerodramus leucophaeus). 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 26 February 2020).