Pallid swift -- 苍雨燕 (Apus pallidus)

Pallid swift perched on top of roof tiles
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Pallid swift fact file

Pallid swift description

GenusApus (1)

The pallid swift is a small, highly aerial bird with a forked tail and crescent-shaped wings (5). Its name comes from the Latin word ‘apous’ meaning ‘without feet’, which actually refers to its very short legs, and the word ‘pallidus’ meaning ‘pale’ (4) (5), in reference to the greyish buff-brown plumage. The pallid swift has a large light-coloured patch on the throat and a light forehead, and the wings are also lighter than the body and have a dark leading edge (6).

Martinet pâle.
Length: 16 – 17 cm (2)
Wingspan: 44 cm (2)
50 g (3)

Pallid swift biology

The pallid swift spends much of its life in the air; it feeds, drinks, mates and even sleeps on the wing. Its diet consists entirely of small insects caught in flight (9). As an adaptation to this lifestyle, it has very short legs that are only used to hold on to vertical surfaces, such as cliff faces (5).

The pallid swift lays between one and three eggs, but its clutch size varies depending on when in the season it is laid (7). The eggs are incubated for an average of 20 days (7).


Pallid swift range

This species has a wide distribution over Europe and Africa, from France east to Pakistan, and south to Zambia (7). It migrates further south during winter (2).


Pallid swift habitat

Being mostly aerial, the pallid swift can inhabit a great variety of environments. Populations found in the Mediterranean typically breed on cliffs and other rocky areas (3). Populations elsewhere are also found in marine or coastal areas, as well as grassland, savannah, gardens, and even highly urbanised areas (8).


Pallid swift status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Pallid swift threats

With a stable global population estimated to be between 250,000 and 2,000,000 individuals, the pallid swift is not currently considered to be threatened (2).


Pallid swift conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for the pallid swift.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2010)
  3. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford.
  4. Costa L.T. and Elias G. L. (1998) Biometrics and survival rates of pallid swifts Apus Pallidus in Portugal. Ringing and Migration, 19: 59-64.
  5. Perrins, C., Attenborough, D. and Arlott, N. (1987) New Generation Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. University of Texas Press, Texas.
  6. Jonsson, L. (1980) Birds of the Mediterranean and Alps. Croom Helm, London.
  7. Penloup, A., Martin, J.L., Gory, G., Brunstein, D. and Bretagnolle, V. (1997) Distribution and breeding success of pallid swifts, Apus Pallidus, on Mediterranean Islands: nest predation by the roof rat, Rattus rattus, and nest site quality. Oikos, 80: 78-88.
  8. Rolando, A., Maffei, G., Pulcher, C. and Giuso, A. (1997) Avian community structure along an urbanization gradient. Italian Journal of Zoology, 64: 341-349.
  9. Cucco, M., Bryant, D.M. and Malacarne, G. (1993) Differences in the diet of the Common (Apus Apus) and Pallid (A. Pallidus) Swifts. Avocetta, 17: 131-138.

Image credit

Pallid swift perched on top of roof tiles  
Pallid swift perched on top of roof tiles

© Robin Chittenden /

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