Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Sabine's Spinetail (Rhaphidura sabini)


French: Martinet de Sabine German: Sumpfsegler Spanish: Vencejo de Sabine
Other common names: Sabine's Spine-tailed Swift

Chætura Sabini

J. E. Gray

, 1829,

Sierra Leone


Has been considered possibly conspecific with Zoonavena thomensis, but this view has not gained support and is contradicted by considerable dissimilarities between the two. Birds of R Ogowe (Gabon) previously recognized as race ogowensis, by virtue of alleged smaller size. Monotypic.


S Guinea and Sierra Leone E, discontinuously, to Cameroon, Bioko, NW Gabon, coastal & C Congo and extreme N Angola (Cabinda), thence through NW & E DRCongo and S Central African Republic to W Uganda; isolated population in E Uganda and W Kenya.

Descriptive notes

11·5 cm; average male 20 g, female 19 g. Small, elegant spinetail with relatively large head and distinctive wing shape, hooked outer wing, bulging midwing and pinched... read more


Likened to the weak high-pitched call of Cypsiurus parvus.


A rainforest species typically found at 700–1700 m, though also in lowlands, around forest... read more

Food and feeding

Flying and wingless ants, flies, small beetles, and insects resembling mosquitoes recorded. Typically seen close to ground, but sometimes... read more


Probably breeding Liberia Mar, Apr and Sept; enlarged gonads Liberia Mar–Apr, Cameroon May, Kenya and Zaire Jun; egg-laying Cameroon... read more


Believed resident throughout much of range, though data from Liberia suggest it is a partial... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Fairly common to common. Least abundant in tiny W Kenyan range, where perhaps some decline in 20th century, as indicated by paucity of recent records... read more

Recommended citation

Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Sabine's Spinetail (Rhaphidura sabini). 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 19 February 2020).