Family Swifts (Apodidae)

Least Concern

White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer)


French: Martinet cafre German: Kaffernsegler Spanish: Vencejo cafre
Other common names: African White-rumped Swift

Cypselus Caffer

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

South Africa


Recent molecular phylogeny#R placed this species in a clade with A. batesi, A. horus, A. nipalensis and A. affinis. Population of N Angola and lower Congo formerly separated as a geographical race, ansorgei, but merely one of darkest-headed populations and no longer considered a valid taxon. Birds of tropical zones (excluding migratory populations in extreme N and S) claimed to be on average shorter-winged, and sometimes recognized as racially distinct (streubelii), but variation in wing length apparently clinal, increasing from N to SW. Monotypic.


S Spain, E Portugal and C Morocco; Senegambia, N & E Sierra Leone and (probably breeding) NW Liberia, then C Ivory Coast E to Somalia and S to South Africa; S Gabon S to C Namibia (Windhoek). Winter range of migratory populations unknown.

Descriptive notes

14 cm; 22 g. Smallish, very graceful swift with long, deeply forked tail, very heavily emarginated outer rectrices, often held tightly closed for long periods, and long slim... read more


Rather silent. Around the nest a crescendo of harsh, scratchy notes can be heard, “shri-shri-shri-... read more


Occurs over a wide range of habitats, from arid savanna and Mediterranean scrub to equatorial... read more

Food and feeding

Three food balls contained a cercopid bug and 33 winged ants averaging 8 mm in length, a number of winged fire ants (Solenopsis... read more


In Spain breeds from late May; laying dates May in Morocco, Jul in Senegambia, Apr and Jun–Jul in Nigeria, Feb in Sudan, May–... read more


Migratory in northernmost and southernmost parts of range. Spanish population present early May to... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. In sub-Saharan Africa localized in wide W African range, increasing in E Africa where commonest swift away from urban areas, and common in S Africa,... read more

Recommended citation

Chantler, P. & Boesman, P. (2019). White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer). 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 April 2019).