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Andorinhão preto. Apus apus. Common swift.

Apus apus


This bird has sickle-shaped wings, resembling a large swallow, and is almost always seen in flight. It is distinguished from swallows by its very dark plumage, larger and longer wings and the strident call it produces. The wing beats are also stronger and more rigid and the flight is higher, faster and more direct than swallows and martins. Although relatively easy to distinguish from swallows and martins, the Common Swift can be easily confused with its congener, the Pallid Swift, which can also appear black in poor light conditions. The main characteristics to identify the Common Swift are the more pointed wingtips, the uniformly coloured belly, the darker plumage and, lastly, the inconspicuous white throat patch. The subtle differences between juvenile and adult plumages make it difficult to assign ages to individuals in flight. This species has no sexual dimorphism.​



There are two subspecies of Common Swift, with the nominal subspecies Apus apus apus occurring in Portugal.

Scientific Name Transcription

The term 'Apus' is a combination of the two Greek words A+Pous, meaning 'without+feet'. In the original description of this species by Linnaeus in 1758, this species was first named Hirundo apus. Later, in the refinement of Linnaeus' work, the genus Apus was created. This species, as a type-species, gets the name of its genus duplicated, thus forming a tautonym.

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42 to 44 cm

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40 to 44 g

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2 to 3 EGGS



Summer species in Europe, northern Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, northern Middle East and temperate regions of Asia; and wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. This species is present throughout mainland Portugal from March to October. Part of the individuals that occur in Portugal are passage migrants to and from Northern Europe, although there are also breeding populations. The colonies are generally located in medium and large urban centres. However, in the north of the country there are also small colonies in villages.



Although it has a very wide distribution, the number of Common Swifts has been in sharp decline over the last few decades. The results of censuses of this species in the United Kingdom and Spain indicate a reduction in the number of these birds over the last 50 years, which has led to the conservation status being recently revised as Vulnerable (VU) and even Endangered (EN).

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Alpine Swift


Pallid Swift

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