Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Sao Tome Spinetail (Zoonavena thomensis)


French: Martinet de Sao Tomé German: Sao-Tomé-Segler Spanish: Vencejo de Santo Tomé
Other common names: Sao Tome Spine-tailed Swift

Chætura thomensis

E. J. O. Hartert

, 1900,

São Tomé


Previously placed in genus Chaetura. In the past, considered possibly conspecific with Rhaphidura sabini, but this view now unanimously rejected. Monotypic.


São Tomé and Príncipe, in Gulf of Guinea.

Descriptive notes

10 cm; c. 8 g. A tiny spinetail with typical spinetail wing shape, hooked in outer wing with bulging midwing, and square tail, appearing rounded when spread, rectrix spines 1... read more


Call described as a high-pitched squeaking or piercing “tririritritri”.


Essentially a forest species, primary or secondary, but also over adjacent cultivated areas and... read more

Food and feeding

Insects, including tiny beetles. Forages in groups of 8–10, circling trees and also performing “figures of eight” 5–10 m above... read more


Inferred egg-laying in early Aug and late Oct on São Tomé, and in Sept on Príncipe. Solitary nester. Open, cupped,... read more



Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in São Tomé EBA and Príncipe EBA. Common on both islands.

Recommended citation

Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Sao Tome Spinetail (Zoonavena thomensis). 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).