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American black swift
Black Swift, adult.jpg
An adult on its nest in Shoshone County, Idaho
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Cypseloides niger map.svg

     breeding visitor      passage and vagrancy      present year-round (movements in South America are poorly known)

The American black swift, or more simply black swift (Cypseloides niger), is a species of bird that is found from northern British Columbia in Canada through the United States and Mexico to Costa Rica and Brazil. They are also found in the Caribbean.

Distinctive features

In flight, these birds resemble a flying cigar with long slender curved wings. The plumage is mostly a sooty, dark gray. There is some contrast between the inner and outer portions of the wing. The shoulders are distinctly darker in color than other parts of the wing. They have short tails that are slightly forked.

Foraging habits and diet

American black swifts live on the wing, foraging in flight. They eat flying insects, primarily flying ants and beetles, often foraging in small groups.

Breeding habits and habitat

Their breeding habitat is frequently associated with water. The birds most often nest on high cliff faces, either above the ocean surf or behind or next to waterfalls. The nest is made of twigs and moss glued together with mud. They will also use ferns and seaweed if available. The clutch size is one egg, with incubation lasting 23–27 days. Newly hatched young are probably fed multiple times a day, but older nestlings usually only once a day by each parent, most often at dusk. Adults spend the night roosting at or near the nest site.


These birds migrate out of North America after the breeding season. It remains unclear where most of the birds spend the winter, although some of the birds have been tracked as far south as Brazil, migrating there from Colorado. Some of the birds in the West Indies appear to be permanent residents. They are late spring migrants into the breeding range, with Colorado breeders not arriving until the very end of May into June. Large flocks of migrants are occasionally seen spring and fall, but only very rarely far south of the U.S. breeding range.

Status and distribution

North America

Fewer than 150 black swift breeding sites are known in the United States, with 108 (as of July 2012) known from Colorado. These include:

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