Apus affinis (Little swift) 

Kleinwindswael [Afrikaans]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Lehaqasi (generic term for swifts) [South Sotho]; Nkonjana (generic term for swift) [Tsonga]; Pêolwane, Phêtla (generic terms for swifts, martins and swallows) [Tswana]; huisgierzwaluw [Dutch]; Martinet des maisons [French]; Haussegler [German]; Andorinhão-pequeno [Portuguese]

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Apus affinis (Little swift)  Apus affinis (Little swift)

Little swift, Spitskop Dam. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Little swift, Kalbaskraal, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

The Little swift occurs almost everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, and is often found near built up areas or cliffs, as it uses them as nest sites. It eats exclusively arthropods, such as termite alates, dragonflies, grasshoppers, Spiders and mantids, often hunting them at high altitudes. It is a colonial nester, with colonies of up to 30 nests placed close together. Both sexes build the nest, which is a untidy closed bowl, made of grass and feathers glued together with saliva. It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 20-26 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 36-40 days, after which they become fully independent.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, largely absent from Somalia. In southern Africa it is common in Namibia (excluding the Namib Desert), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa. It generally prefers built up areas (with large buildings) or cliffs, rocks and crags, foraging in the surrounding habitat.

Distribution of Little swift in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Food 

It exclusively eats arthropods, such as termite alates, dragonflies, grasshoppers, spiders and mantids. It hunts in the air, reaching great heights and travelling long distances in search of food, while sometimes descending to catch prey fleeing from a bushfire. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Monogamous and usually colonial, with colonies of up to 30 nests placed closely together. There are two records of it nesting solitarily.
  • Both sexes build the nest (see image below), which is a untidy closed bowl made of grass and feathers glued together with saliva. These nests are usually placed in human structures, such as in the eaves of buildings or under bridges, but it may also use cliffs. It also uses abandoned or unfinished swallow nests instead of building its own; species of swallow include Wire-tailed swallow, Greater striped swallow, Lesser striped swallow, South African cliff-swallow, Rock martin and Common house-martin. Before using the old nest it has to adapt it for its own usage, a process that takes 2.5-7.0 months.
Apus affinis (Little swift)

Fig. 3 - Little swift flying from colony. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-September, peaking from November-December.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 20-26 days. The parents incubate in 90 minute shifts, sometimes incubating simultaneously.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 36-40 days, after which they become fully independent.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact its range has greatly expanded in the past few decades, largely due to the increasing availability of man-made nest sites.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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