Order: Apodiformes

Family: Apodidae

Scientific name: Tachymarptis melba, Linnaeus, 1758

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. Alpine Swifts are extremely fast fliers and they can fly at a speed of 125-130 km/hr.
  2. Alpine Swifts are also known as White Bellied Swifts.


The Alpine swift is 20 to 22 cm long and weighs 75-120 grams. The overall plumage is dark greyish brown. The chin, upper throat, lower breast and the belly regions are white. The lower throat and the upper breast are dark brown, separating the white patches. The wings are comparatively broader than other swifts. The tail is forked. The irises are dark brown. The feet and the beak are dark grey. The feet are very short which is used for clinging to a vertical surface. Both sexes look similar. Juveniles are similar to adults, but their feathers are pale edged.


The diet of Alpine Swift species is mostly flying insects. Flies, moths, butterflies, flying termites and ants, dragonflies, locust, cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets and mantises are their primary food. They are excellent aerial foragers, and hawks insects on the wing. They are also able to drink water by skimming the water surface while flying. The hatchlings are fed with small balls which is a mass of insects bound together by saliva. The forage time is mainly day and it is done in groups or pairs.


The Alpine Swift inhabit in hills, cliffs, plains, montane forests, wetland ecosystems like flooded grasslands, freshwater lakes,  rivers, streams etc. In India it is distributed throughout the hills and plains of the union. They are also seen in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Reproductive Behaviour

The breeding season of the Alpine swift is May to June in North India and December –January in South India. They are colonial breeders. Crevices in cliff-rocks, ledges and tall man-made isolated structures are nesting sites. Same nest and nest sites may be used in successive years also. The nest is a saucer-like structure made up of straw, primary feathers and dry plant material etc. agglutinated with bird’s saliva. The nest is glued to the vertical surface. Normally 2-4 eggs are laid. Incubation of 20-21 days and other domestic duties are shared by both parents.


The call is a drawn-out twittering sound.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Mottled Swift (Tachymarptis aequatorialis).
  • Tachymarptis melba nubifugus of Himalayan region.
  • Tachymarptis melba dorabtatai of west peninsular India.
  • Tachymarptis melba bakeri of Sri Lanka.
  • Tachymarptis melba willsi of Madagascar.
  • Tachymarptis melba archeri of Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

Migratory Behaviour

Uncommon Resident and local migrant.