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Home » Information » Alpine Swift in Uganda (“Tachymarptis melba”)

Alpine Swift in Uganda (“Tachymarptis melba”)

Alpine Swift

What to Know About the Alpine Swift in Uganda?

The Alpine Swift in Uganda is one of the African Uganda Birds seen during Uganda birding safaris. The Alpine swift formerly Apus melba, is a species of swift. The genus name is from the Ancient Greek takhus, “fast”, and marptis, “seizer”. The specific melba has no known explanation

The Alpine Swift is almost twice as large as other swifts. In flight, it is often similar to a small falcon. The Alpine Swift spends most of its life flying in the air. It feeds, drinks, sleeps and mates while in the air.

It nests on rocky cliffs and mountains, but also on tall buildings. It usually returns to the same nesting site every year.

This species is not globally threatened, but it is still existing in Kibale forest national park in Uganda. It has a length from 20-22cm, wingspan 53cm and weight varies from 76-120g.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Look Like?

The Alpine Swift of nominate race has olive-brown head and upper parts, breast band, underwing, flanks and under tail-coverts.

Chin, throat and belly are white, the latter forming a large oval white patch conspicuous in flight. The long, scythe-like wings favor gliding action and is advantageous during flapping flight.

The tail is slightly forked and used as support when the bird clings to a steep, vertical rock face. The short, tiny bill is black, with very large gape allowing easier aerial capture of insects.

The eyes are dark brown, protected by coarse, bristle-like feathers located in front of the eye. The short legs and the tiny feet are black.

The feet have sharp, curved claws, very useful to help the bird to perch on vertical surfaces. Both adults are similar. The juvenile resembles adult but it has pale-edged feathers.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Sing and Make Calls?

The Alpine Swift’s typical call is a loud, metallic trill rising and falling in pitch, and accelerating, then slowing down “trihihihihihihihihi…” or “trrr-titititititi…” Other loud calls “kee-kee-kee-kee” and “peee-hu” can sound like small falcon’s calls.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Feed?

The Alpine Swift feeds exclusively on insects and spiders. The diet includes various species such as Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Diptera and spiders.

It forages in flight, between 30 and 40metres above the ground. The bird catches insects while flying with wide open bill and large gape.

The Alpine Swift is sometimes taken by the Sooty falcon while foraging. It may feed at lower level during bad weather conditions, and at night around the lights that attract numerous insects, and sometimes in total darkness.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Nest?

The nest is a cup-shaped structure made with feathers, sticks, plant fibers and down, and moss. All these materials are held together with saliva.

In the same way, the nest is glued to the vertical surface, once again with saliva.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Breed?

The breeding season is closely related to prey abundance. The Alpine Swift breeds in colonies established on cliff ledges and in crevices, and also on tall buildings.

The same nesting site is reused in several following years by the same pair. A colony may contain up to 170 pairs.

How Does the Alpine Swift in Uganda Reproduce?

The female lays 1-4, usually 3 eggs, and both adults share the incubation during 17-23 days. The chicks hatch within 24 hours.

They are naked, and brooded continuously until the down appears. They are fed by both parents on a rich diet of insects, brought back by an adult in the form of a bolus which is regurgitated directly in the throat of the chick.

The young fledge between 53 and 66 days after hatching. They can breed at 2-3 years, rarely at one year.

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