House swift

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The house swift (Apus nipalensis) is a small swift belonging to the family, Apodidae.

These swift species are distributed in Nepal, northeast India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, south and southeast China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and southeast Asia. In May 2012, a house swift had landed near Vancouver, Canada, flying across the Pacific Ocean. There are four recognized subspecies of these swifts.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of House Swift Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

House swift - Overview

  • Scientific name: Apus nipalensis
  • Species author: (Hodgson, 1837)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Cypselus Nipalensis Hodgson, 1837
  • Family: Apodidae › Apodiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: House swift, Chinese: 小白腰雨燕, French: Martinet malais, German: Malaiensegler, Spanish: Vencejo oriental, Russian: Стриж домовой, Japanese: ヒメアマツバメ, Malay: Burung Layang-layang Rumah
  • Other names: Malay House Swift
  • Distribution: Nepal, northeast India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, south and southeast China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines
  • Diet and feeding habits: flying insects
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The house swift (Apus nipalensis) is closely related to the white-rumped swift (Apus caffer), Bates's swift (Apus batesi), Horus swift (Apus horus) and the little swift (Apus affinis).

The four recognized subspecies of house swift (Apus nipalensis) are: Apus nipalensis nipalensis (Hodgson, 1837), Apus nipalensis subfurcatus (Blyth, 1849), Apus nipalensis furcatus Brooke, 1971 and Apus nipalensis kuntzi Deignan, 1958.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The house swift (Apus nipalensis) is a small-sized swift, measuring 14 to 15 cm in length and weighing 20 to 25 grams. Both the sexes look alike.

These house swift have distinctive blackish brown back, wings, tail and abdomen. There is slight bluish green gloss on the back and the wings. The crown, face and the breast are blackish-brownish gray. The rump and the adjacent flanks are white. There is a white throat patch.

The forehead, lores and malar streak are pale brownish gray. The tail is medium-sized and squarish and has a slight, shallow, discernible fork. The bill is black. The irises are dark brown. The legs are black with purple tinge. The house swift call is a loud, fast, twittering "de-de-de-dedede" sound.
Birds of India - Picture of House swift - Apus nipalensis
Indian birds - Image of House swift - Apus nipalensis by Sergey Yeliseev

Indian birds - Photo of House swift - Apus nipalensis
Birds of India - Picture of House swift - Apus nipalensis by Opisska

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These house swift species are distributed in Nepal, northeast India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, south and southeast China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Philippines.

The house swift nominate subspecies A. n. nipalensis is distributed in Nepal, northeast India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, south and southeast China, South Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

In India, the subspecies A. n. nipalensis is distributed in the states of northern West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

The house swift subspecies A. n. kuntzi occurs in Taiwan. The subspecies A. n. furcatus is distributed in Java and Bali (Indonesia). The subspecies A. n. subfurcatus is distributed in Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines.

Ecosystem and habitat

These house swift species have low forest dependency. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 2100 meters.

The artificial ecosystems of these swift species include urban areas. The natural ecosystems of these species include tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, tropical and subtropical moist montane forests and temperate forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these house swift species is mostly flying insects. Aeroplankton (or aerial plankton), flies, airborne spiders, moths, butterflies, flying termites and ants, dragonflies, locust, cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets and mantises are their primary food.

These house swift species are excellent aerial foragers, hawking insects on the wing. They are exceptionally agile in flight and drink by skimming the water surface while flying. The hatchlings are fed with food balls, a mass of insects bound together by saliva.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these house swift species is from February to September in northeast India and Myanmar. The breeding season is during March and July in Malay Peninsula. These species are colonial breeders.

These house swift species nest inside buildings, under bridges, on cliffs and in the mouth of caves. The nests are bottle-shaped and often clumped together. The nest is built with feathers, leaves and grass cemented together with saliva. The typical clutch may contains one to four oval white eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The house swift species are non-migratory resident birds.

Post breeding, the juvenile swifts may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the house swift (Apus nipalensis) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be increasing. Throughout its range it is reported to be very common and abundant. The generation length is 12.5 years. Its distribution size is about 20,700,000

The house swift (Apus nipalensis) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion, or under the population size criterion. The ongoing habitat destruction is the main threat that may endanger the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the swift species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the house swift (Apus nipalensis).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Apus nipalensis
Species:A. nipalensis
Binomial name:Apus nipalensis
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.House swift image source:
Image author: Sergey Yeliseev | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 as on 5/28/17
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Opisska | License: Public domain
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