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Bird name:

Alpine Swift

Apus melba




Swifts (Apodidae)





Euring 5

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Breeding Location:

Mountains, Cliffs, Urban

Breeding Type:

Monogamous, Colonial

Egg Colour:


Number of Eggs:

1 - 4

Incubation Days:

17 - 23

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Material:

Feathers, twigs, and moss.

Nest Location:

12 or more metres above the ground on a cliff or building.




Alpine Swift: Large swift with very long wings. Black-brown upperparts, white throat and belly, black-brown breast band, short, wide beak. Short to medium tail is forked, black-brown undertail coverts. Fast, long distance flights with much soaring, powerful wing beats. Forages over a large area for beetles, and a variety of other insects found in the air. Catches insect prey with wide open mouth during fast, direct flight. May be difficult to spot when flying very high above the ground.

Range and Habitat

Alpine Swift: Summers in mountainous areas across southern Europe to the Himalayas. Winters in central and southern Africa. Found year-round in Madagascar and parts of India and Africa. A scarce annual visitor with most records from March to October. In the UK, it can occur above any type of habitat, but on its breeding grounds, prefers mountainous areas with cliffs.

Breeding and Nesting

Alpine Swift: Two to three plain, white eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest made of moss, small sticks, feathers, and the swift's own saliva. The nest is built in a crevice on a cliff, under a bridge, on on a tall building. It is usually high above the ground. The eggs are incubated by both sexes for 18 to 28 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Alpine Swift: This large swift feeds on beetles, wasps, and other insects in the air. It catches them during fast, straight flight usually high above the ground, but also fairly close to the ground during humid weather. The Alpine Swift forages over a very large area each day.


Alpine Swift: Typical call is a trilled, metallic "peeee, ti-ti-titititi-ti-ti". Also makes repeated "kee" calls.

Similar Species

Alpine Swift: Swift has brown underparts, and a longer, more deeply-forked tail. Sand Martin has a white undertail, and more white on the chin and throat.

Undertail covertsX
Small feathers that cover the areas where the retrices (tail feathers) attach to the rump.
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
4 and 6 letter alpha codesX

The four letter common name alpha code is is derived from the first two letters of the common first name and the first two letters of common last name. The six letter species name alpha code is derived from the first three letters of the scientific name (genus) and the first three letters of the scientific name (species). See (1) below for the rules used to create the codes..

Four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes were developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003, North American Bird-Bander 28:64-79) to reflect A.O.U. taxonomy and nomenclature (A.O.U. 1998) as modified by Supplements 42 (Auk 117:847-858, 2000) and 43 (Auk 119:897-906, 2002). The list has been updated by Pyle and DeSante to reflect changes reported by the A.O.U from 2003 through 2006.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) was established in the mid-1990 s as a cooperative project among several federal agencies to improve and expand upon taxonomic data (known as the NODC Taxonomic Code) maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To find the ITIS page for a bird species go to the ITIS web site advanced search and report page at You can enter the TSN or the common name of the bird. It will return the ITIS page for that bird. Another way to obtain the ITIS page is to use the Google search engine. Enter the string ITIS followed by the taxonomic ID, for example "ITIS 178041" will return the page for the Allen's Hummingbird.

Parts of a Standing birdX
Head Feathers and MarkingsX
Parts of a Flying birdX