Did You Know? 21 Incredible Alpine Swift Facts

Read more fun Alpine swift facts here.

The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba), formerly called apus melba, is a swift bird species of the family Apodidae. The genus name is formed from two Ancient Greek elements, takhus meaning 'fast' and marptis translates to 'seizer.' The specific term (of alpine swift scientific name) melba is derived from 'mel-alba' or 'melano-alba.' This was hypothesized by Swaab and Eigenhuis that melba means 'black' (melanos) and 'white' (albus). The Tachymarptis genus has two species, the mottled swift (Tachymarptisaequatorialis) and the Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba). Alpine swifts are large swifts with a large head, broad wings, a white belly, and medium-sized forked tails. They are sometimes included within the Apus genus, but these two swifts are larger, and nuclear and mitochondrial markers prove that Apus and Tachymarptis are different. The Apodidae family are similar to swallows, and this is because of convergent evolution, which reflects an identical lifestyle of catching insects in flight or the air. The Alpine swift has a black body with a white underpart and dark neck. Their diet includes insects and spiders.

If these Alpine swift facts were fun to read, then do check out these swallow and blue jay facts on Kidadl.

Alpine Swift

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Insects, seeds, and bacteria

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

4 eggs

How much do they weigh?

0.22 lb (100 g)

How long are they?

7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Dark brown

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Mountains, suburbs, cliffs, marshes, swamps, and forested areas


Southern Europe and Asia, northern Morocco, north-western Iran, and Anatolia





Scientific Name

Tachymarptis melba Synonym-Apus melba





Alpine Swift Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Alpine swift?

The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) or apus melba is a swift bird of the order Apodiformes and phylum Chordata. This species is a small-sized bird and is identical to house martin or barn swallow but are not related. The Alpine swift uses short legs only to cling to vertical surfaces. This species of bird never reach or settle on the land voluntarily. This bird pairs for life. This bird is also highly migratory. They are summer visitors to Spain in summer and to Subsaharan Africa in winter. It is not clear if they rest or sleep in flight as they spend long periods flying.

What class of animal does an Alpine swift belong to?

The Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) belongs to the Aves class of animals.

How many Alpine swifts are there in the world?

The exact population of the Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba) in the world is not known. A preliminary global population count is 1,000,000-4,000,000 individuals.

Where does an Alpine swift live?

The Alpine swift birds breed in the mountains of southern Europe extending to the Himalayas in the summer. These birds are migratory like common swifts and migrate to the south in winter to Southern Africa. Due to this migration, they are often seen in the middle east, southern Europe, and Asia. Their range extends to Africa, Madagascar, and parts of India. It is believed that these species were widespread during the last ice age.

What is an Alpine swift's habitat?

The range of Alpine swift habitat includes mountains, suburbs, cliffs, marshes, swamps, and forested areas. The alpine swifts breed in cliffs and mountain regions.

Who do Alpine swifts live with?

The Alpine swift lives in flocks.

How long does an Alpine swift live?

The Alpine swift life span is 10-15 years. This lifespan (Alpine Swift) can extend up to 26 years.

How do they reproduce?

The Alpine swift birds breed in the mountains of southern Europe extending to the Himalayas in the summer, from March-August. They perform flying displays during the breeding season. The alpine swifts build their nest in colonies as they are very social. These colonies contain around 170 pairs. They will fly close by these nesting regions and can be found in large groups. These colonies are established in crevices and on cliff ledges, even on tall buildings. The same pair will return to this breeding site for several years. Their breeding is also related to prey abundance. They build cup-shaped nests, built with fibers, feathers, sticks, moss, and plant down. They use their saliva as glue to keep the nest together. The average number of eggs the female alpine swifts lay is around one to four eggs and is typically up to three eggs. The parents both incubate the eggs for 17-23 and the chicks hatch after a day. The chicks are naked when they hatch and are rated for another 6-10 weeks. If the parents are unable to bring food due to bad weather, young swifts are able to drop their body temperature in the nest. The chicks leave the nest once they acquire adult plumage.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of Alpine swift is evaluated as Least Concern. The nesting birds are sensitive to bad weather.

Alpine Swift Fun Facts

What do Alpine swifts look like?

These birds are large swifts and can be easily distinguished from common swifts by their white belly and throat. The head is olive-brown and the throat and underbelly are white. They have short legs, short-forked tails, and tiny brown feet. They often resemble a small falcon in flight. The feet have curved and sharp claws useful for perching on vertical surfaces. The wings are scythe-like and elongated, which helps them in gliding action and flapping flight. They have dark brown eyes, protected by bristle-like coarse feathers in front of them. Both males and females are identical. The young ones are similar to adults with pale-edge feathers.

Alpine swifts never land on the ground on their own.

How cute are they?

These birds are named based on their swift flying way and are usually not considered cute.

How do they communicate?

These birds make use of calls and body language to communicate. Their call is a loud metallic trill 'trihihihih,' which rises and falls in pitch. Few other calls are 'peee-hu' and 'kee-kee-kee.' Adults defending their nests use aggressive displays like raising their wings to expose their claws and strong feet. They also perform displays and two adult males chase a female, where they can reach up to 492.1 ft (150 m) above ground.

How big is an Alpine swift?

These birds measure up to 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm) in length. The wingspan is 22 in (57 cm). The wingspan can extend up to 23.6 in (60 cm). These swifts are almost twice the size of chimney swifts.

How fast can an Alpine swift fly?

The speed of Alpine swift flight in nature is

How much does an Alpine swift weigh?

These birds weigh around 0.22 lb (100 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name given to the male and female Alpine bird species.

What would you call a baby Alpine swift?

There is no specific name given to the baby Alpine swift bird.

What do they eat?

The diet of alpine swifts is carnivorous. They catch their food in the air at around 98.4-131.2 ft (30-40 m) above ground. They mainly feed on spiders and insects like ants and wasps. They will feed on any flying insects that they can catch.

Are they rare?

Alpine swifts are not rare species. They are quite common in their natural habitats.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these birds do not make good pets. These birds love to fly around in nature.

Did you know...

There are ten subspecies of the Alpine swift. These birds can be distinguished by wing and body size, darker or paler plumage, and breast bands. They can be found across the world, in southern Europe, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan, India, and ran.

These species sometimes nest in overhanging in houses, which could damage the house and annoy the house owners.  

The alpine species have lower wing beats and are less agile. Alpine swifts also form smaller flocks than common swifts.

Do swifts sleep while flying?

These swifts spend long periods in the air, flying. It is not clear if they rest or sleep in flight. A study stated that all physiological processes can be done in the air, even sleep.

How many days can an Alpine swift fly without stopping?

These birds are always in the air. A study in 2013 stated that they can spend up to six months in the air without landing for once, which is during migration to Africa.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these vesper sparrow facts and swallow-tailed kite facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring on one of our free printable bird coloring pages.



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