This is the largest regularly occurring swift in North America. Blackish overall. At close range, shows a whitish cast on the face. The wings are long and broad and usually appear somewhat curved in flight. The tail is fairly long and wide, clearly notched on adult males, more squared on females and juveniles. Juveniles show white feather edges on underparts, creating a scaly pattern. Unlike smaller swifts, whose wings appear to come from the middle of the body, this species' wings are set forward, making the tail look proportionally longer.
Length: 18 (cm) Wingspan: 38 (cm)
Nests on sea cliffs and behind waterfalls.
Forages very high in the sky, making observation difficult. Most easily seen near nest sites, or on days when low cloud cover forces the birds to fly lower.
Captures flying insects on the wing.
I would argue that this species does not have broad wings, instead having the slimmest wings of any N. Am. bird that is not a hummingbird or tubenose; they often appear downright scimitar-like. The "milk mustache" is a clincher if seen. Note that spring Vaux's Swifts in their fresh deep-sooty plumage can seem convincingly blackish, and at times Vaux's will glide for long moments in the manner of Black. A true Black Swift will at least occasionally fan its no-doubt tail into a vague spoony shape as it turns. The slight projection of the head forward of the wings, combined with the much greater rear-parts projection behind the wings, produces a distinctive shape. These birds are capable of migrating directly into a Beaufort 4 north breeze, scaling for long distances on set wings and only occasionally flapping to find better "purchase" on such seemingly perverse airflow.
Citation: Personal Experience. I observe this occasionally, confident.
Expanded Life History
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Nests behind waterfalls.by Daniel Farrar on June 22, 2010 at 02:48 pm
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Salt Creek Falls, Lane Countyby Daniel Farrar on June 22, 2010 at 02:47 pm
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Huge!by Daniel Farrar on June 22, 2010 at 02:50 pm
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|David Fix added a note to Black Swift Notes||7/03/2011 at 3:17PM|