Cypsiurus parvus (African palm-swift)

Palmwindswael [Afrikaans]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Nkonjana (generic term for swift) [Tsonga]; Afrikaanse palmgierzwaluw [Dutch]; Martinet des palmes [French]; Palmensegler [German]; Andorinhão-das-palmeiras [Portuguese]

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Cypsiurus parvus (African palm-swift) Cypsiurus parvus (African palm-swift)

African palm-swift. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

African palm-swift. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

The African palm-swift originated in the lowland forests of Equatorial Africa, but now it occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, preferring savanna or urban areas with scattered palm trees. In the last 60-70 years its range has expanded exponentially, due to human exploits and the planting of palm trees. It usually lives in colonies of up to 100 active nests, which each consist of a shallow cup, mostly made of feathers glued together with saliva, normally placed on the upper side of palm fronds. Here it lays 1-2 eggs, which the female immediately glues to the nest, using her own saliva. The eggs are then incubated by both sexes, for 18-22 days. The chicks are brooded and fed by both sexes, leaving the nest when they are about 29-33 days old, at which point they become fully independent.

Distribution and habitat

Originated from the lowland forests of Equatorial Africa, but now it occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from the deserts of East Africa. In the last 60-70 years its range has expanded exponentially, due to human exploits and the planting of palm trees. Within southern Africa it is common in central and northern Namibia, northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers savanna with scattered palm trees, but it can also move into towns with indigenous or exotic palms, such as Livistona and Washingtonia.

Distribution of African palm-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 almost exclusively eats flying insects, hunting mainly just above the tree canopy. It often forages in flocks, usually with other swift and swallow species. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Monogamous, solitary or colonial nester. It usually lives in colonies of up to 100 breeding pairs, but it may occasionally nest solitarily.
  • Both sexes build the nest, which is a shallow cup of feathers and plant detritus, glued together with saliva. It is usually placed on the upper side of a palm frond, which is usually a Borassus palm (Borassus aethiopum), Lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea), Northern Lala palm (Hyphaene petersiana), or the alien genera Livistona and Washingtonia. It may also place the nest in a building or steel bridge.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from August-November.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which the female immediately glues to the nest using her own saliva. The eggs are then incubated by both sexes for 18-22 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both sexes, leaving the nest and becoming independent when they are about 29-33 days old

Threats

Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.

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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