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The American black swift (Cypseloides niger) is a species of bird that belongs to the family Apodidae. It is known for its distinctive dark plumage and impressive aerial abilities, which allow it to soar through the skies with remarkable agility.

Black swifts are primarily found in western North America, where they inhabit mountainous regions near fast-moving streams and rivers. They are migratory birds that travel long distances during the winter months, often flying as far south as South America.

Despite their widespread distribution across much of the continent, however, very little is currently known about their behavior or ecology in the wild. In recent years, researchers have begun to study these enigmatic birds more closely in an effort to better understand their biology and conservation needs.

A flock of  flying black swifts. Common Swift (Apus apus).

Taxonomy And Distribution

The American black swift is a species of bird belonging to the family Apodidae, which also includes other swifts and tree-swifts. Its scientific name is Cypseloides niger, and it was first described by John James Audubon in 1839.

The American black swift has a distinctive appearance with its glossy black plumage and long narrow wings that are slightly curved at the tips. It measures around 18 cm in length and weighs approximately 40 grams.

The geographic distribution of the American black swift spans across North America, South America, Central America, and some Caribbean islands. In North America, they breed primarily in western mountainous regions such as Alaska, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington State among others. During winter months their range extends southwards into Mexico down to Panama where they occur year-round; further southward seasonal movements have been recorded reaching as far as Argentina during summer days.

Classification-wise this species belongs to the order Apodiformes together with other birds such as hummingbirds and treeswifts sharing similar structural adaptations for flight including small body sizes but powerful wing musculature adapted for fast flapping flight during aerial feeding activities or migration events.

Within this order’s diversity particularly within Family Apodidae more than seventy-five species exist worldwide varying greatly in size from tiny pygmy swiftlets to larger vulture-sized White-throated Swift whose ranges extend throughout most of North & South America.

Physical Characteristics

The American black swift is a fascinating bird with unique physical characteristics. Its dark plumage and slender body make it easily recognizable, while its impressive wingspan enables the species to soar gracefully through the sky. The swift’s wing structure is particularly noteworthy; each wing has ten primary feathers that extend out from the wrist joint and form an elongated triangle shape.

In addition to their striking appearance, American black swifts have interesting nesting behavior. They typically nest behind waterfalls or in other misty locations near water sources, using cemented plant material to create a cup-shaped nest. These nests are often built on steep cliffs where they are protected from predators.

If you’re lucky enough to spot an American black swift in the wild, take note of its stunning appearance and unique behaviors. To help you identify this rare bird more easily, here are four physical features that set it apart:

  1. Dark plumage
  2. Slender body
  3. Impressive wingspan
  4. Ten primary feathers per wing

Overall, the American black swift’s fascinating biology makes it a remarkable species worth studying further. From its distinctive wing structure to its intriguing nesting habits, there is much to learn about this incredible bird of prey.

Habitat And Range

The American Black Swift, commonly known as the black swift, is an elusive bird species that can be found in North America. It has a unique appearance with its dark plumage and forked tail that differentiate it from other swifts. The black swift’s habitat and range are of great interest to ornithologists due to their peculiar breeding behavior.

Geographical factors play a crucial role in determining the habitats of these birds. Black swifts prefer to nest near waterfalls, cliffs, or caves located in remote areas such as mountain ranges or national parks. These geographical features provide ideal nesting sites for them where they can safely raise their young ones away from predators and human disturbances.

Their habitats are also influenced by weather patterns related to elevation and temperature fluctuations. Breeding sites for black swifts are often hard to locate since they prefer steep inaccessible cliff ledges or crevices behind waterfalls. They build cup-shaped nests using mosses, lichens, feathers, and twigs cemented together with saliva; making it difficult for predators like hawks or ravens to access them.

Breeding occurs during late spring through early summer when males perform aerial displays and vocalizations to attract females. Once paired up, they mate for life and take turns incubating eggs until they hatch after 19-23 days.

Overall, understanding the habitat requirements and breeding behaviors of American Black Swifts is essential in conserving this threatened species’ populations. By protecting their preferred breeding sites, we can ensure that these magnificent birds continue thriving in their natural environment without disturbance from humans or other potential threats.

Migration Patterns

The migration patterns of American black swifts have been a topic of interest for researchers studying the species.

These birds breed in mountainous regions throughout western North America, and then migrate to warmer areas during the winter months. The exact details of their migration routes are not fully understood, but it is known that they travel long distances to reach their destinations.

Breeding sites for American black swifts are typically located near or within waterfalls or other bodies of moving water. This habitat provides ideal nesting conditions with access to food sources such as flying insects that swarm around the falls.

Foraging areas during breeding season may extend up to several kilometers from the nest site, while migratory routes can be much longer spanning entire continents.

During migration, these birds face numerous challenges including weather fluctuations and finding suitable foraging locations along their journey. It is believed that some populations may even follow specific flyways on their journeys southward towards Central and South America.

Understanding the specifics of these migrations will aid in conservation efforts aimed at protecting both breeding and foraging habitats crucial to maintaining healthy populations of American black swifts in years to come.

Behavior And Ecology

The American black swift (Cypseloides niger) is a species of bird that belongs to the family Apodidae. This species can be found in various locations across North America, including Mexico and Canada.

The American black swift has unique characteristics that enable it to survive in its environment, such as its reproductive strategies and feeding habits. Reproductive strategies are important for any species’ survival, and the American black swift has developed some remarkable methods to ensure its population’s continuation. These birds breed in mountainous regions during late spring or early summer. They lay one to two eggs per clutch, which they incubate for around four weeks before hatching. After birth, both parents participate in caring for their young until they become independent enough to fly on their own.

Feeding habits are another essential aspect of the American black swift’s behavior and ecology. As insectivores, these birds feed mainly on insects caught mid-air while flying at high speeds. Their wingspan enables them to perform quick maneuvers while airborne, allowing them to capture prey with ease. Additionally, the shape of their bill allows them to catch insects more efficiently than other bird species who also consume insects as part of their diets.

Conservation Status And Threats

The American black swift faces a number of conservation concerns and threats. The primary threat to this bird species is habitat loss, which is caused by human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and dam construction. These activities have led to the destruction of freshwater habitats that are essential for breeding and nesting.

Conservation efforts have been initiated in order to protect the remaining populations of American black swifts. One important strategy involves protecting their breeding sites through legal protection or management actions. Additionally, educating the public about these birds can help increase awareness regarding their importance and promote their conservation.

Human impact on the environment has resulted in many challenges for wildlife around the world, including the American black swift. It is imperative that we continue our efforts to conserve and protect this species so that they may continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

By working together with local communities, government agencies, and other stakeholders, we can create sustainable practices that will allow these birds to flourish now and into the future.


The American black swift (Cypseloides niger) is a bird species belonging to the family Apodidae. Taxonomically, it is classified under the order Apodiformes and has been recorded in North and South America.

The bird’s physical characteristics include its entirely dark plumage, cigar-shaped body, long wingspan, and distinctively short tail.

American black swifts inhabit remote areas with vertical cliff faces or waterfalls where they breed and roost. Their range covers most of western North America up through British Columbia and southward into Central and South America. These birds have unique migration patterns that involve regular movements between breeding grounds and wintering sites.

Black swifts are known for their aerial acrobatics which allow them to catch insects on-the-wing while flying at high speeds. However, these remarkable birds face numerous threats such as habitat loss due to human activities like hydroelectric power generation and mining operations.

Additionally, climate change impacts may cause significant changes in weather patterns affecting food sources critical for the survival of this species.

In conclusion, despite their remarkable abilities, American black swifts’ conservation status remains threatened due to various anthropogenic factors such as habitat loss and degradation resulting from human activities. Therefore, concerted efforts need to be made towards conserving their habitats, including monitoring populations at key locations during breeding seasons to ensure the continued existence of this fascinating bird species.