Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

Short-tailed Swift (Chaetura brachyura)


French: Martinet polioure German: Stutzschwanzsegler Spanish: Vencejo rabón

Acanthylis brachyura


, 1846,



HBW diagnosed the form ocypetes on basis of “longer tail and wings than other races and paler grey chin and throat, brown forehead and pale-fringed superciliary line”, and it was later elevated to species status on account of “uppertail-coverts... completely covering tail, which is longer than in Short-tailed... wings notably long and bowed, very different from Short-tailed...”, with differences in voice (well-enunciated series of “chip-chip-chip...” vs very fast, high, run-together twitters#R), but subsequently wings described as shorter and calls similar#R. Material in AMNH suggests an overlap in supposedly diagnostic plumage features; therefore, pending further clarification, ocypetes is retained as a subspecies. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. b. brachyura (Jardine, 1846) – Short-tailed Swift – Panama E to Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guianas, S to WC Brazil, E Peru and N Bolivia.
  • C. b. praevelox Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1918 – S Lesser Antilles (St Vincent and Grenada) and Tobago.
  • C. b. cinereocauda (Cassin, 1852) – NC Brazil.
  • C. b. ocypetes J. T. Zimmer, 1953 – Tumbes Swift – SW Ecuador and extreme NW Peru (Tumbes, Piura).
  • Descriptive notes

    10 cm; 15·5–22 g. Smallish to medium-sized swift with protruding head, ­remarkably short square tail (wings appearing disproportionately long as a result),... read more


    Main calls a series of single notes “chip...chip...chip...”, often combined with a bright melodious... read more


    Main habitats defined as secondary forest, edge of tropical lowland evergreen forest, tropical... read more

    Food and feeding

    Panamanian study showed that Diptera, Hymenoptera and Coleoptera ­predominated with lesser numbers (less than 5% of total diet) of... read more


    In Trinidad breeds in summer rainy season, nesting rapidly after first rains early Apr to early Sept. Breeding initiated by May rains in... read more


    Resident. Vagrant to St Croix, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, Barbados (Jun–Oct) and Grenada. read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common throughout range, for example noted commonly over suitable habitat in Villavicencio area, Colombia, and in uplands of Reserva Ecol... read more

    Recommended citation

    Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Short-tailed Swift (Chaetura brachyura). 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 21 February 2020).