Apus horus (Horus swift)

Horuswindswael [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]; Horusgierzwaluw [Dutch]; Martinet horus [French]; Horussegler, Erdsegler [German]; Andorinhão-das-barreiras [Portuguese]

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Apus horus (Horus swift) Apus horus (Horus swift)

Horus swift, Gouritz River, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Horus swift, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

The bulk of the Horus swift's population is in southern Africa, mainly in South Africa and Zimbabwe but strangely absent from Botswana. It usually forages in flocks over open areas, feeding on a wide range of insects. It is a monogamous, colonial nester, often living in mixed-species colonies of about 2-10 breeding pairs. It usually takes control of old tunnels excavated by other birds, building a small pad out of diverse materials glued together with saliva, which it places in the chamber at the tunnel's end. Here it lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for about 28 days. The chicks are born with a grey-coloured down, and are cared for by both parents.

Distribution and habitat

Mainly occurs from Ethiopia south through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, western Mozambique and South Africa, largely excluding the Northern Cape. It usually forages over open areas, such as grassland, fynbos, desert, lakes, semi-desert, savanna and coastal dunes, generally avoiding mountainous areas.

Distribution of Horus 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 eats a wide range of insects caught aerially, often foraging in mixed species flocks. It may descend to the ground, gleaning insects from the foliage of trees or bushes. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Monogamous, colonial nester, often living in colonies of about 2-10 breeding pairs, including other species such as Brown-throated martins and Common starlings.
  • It usually takes control of old tunnels excavated by other birds, such as bee-eaters, kingfishers (Coraciiformes), swallows and martins, Ant-eating chats and Ground woodpeckers. It then builds a small pad in the chamber at the end of the tunnel, made of a variety of materials, including grass, leaves, plastic and feathers all glued together with its saliva. The tunnel is usually placed in sand or clay riverbanks, dongas, road cuttings, quarries or mine dumps.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-April, peaking from September-January.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for about 28 days.
  • The chicks are born with a grey-coloured down, and are cared for by both parents.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact extremely common and widespread.

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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