This is the only regularly occurring swift in North America with a bold black and white pattern. The tail is fairly long and appears slightly notched when spread. The wings are broad at the base. Shows black to brownish-black overall, with white on the throat, breast, and central belly. White tips on the secondaries and tertials create a white trailing edge to the inner wing. White patches on the flanks form white "saddle bags." At close range, the crown and lores are lightly frosted with pale gray. Juveniles resemble adults, but may appear more brownish.
Length: 15 (cm) Wingspan: 33 (cm)
Call is a long rapid series of raspy jee notes, often descending and slowing down near the end of the series.
Nests and roosts in crevices in cliff walls, canyons, offshore rocks, and man-made structures like bridges.
Flight is very fast and erratic. Spends most of the day in flight. Courting adults engage in an elaborate and sometimes alarming plummet which involves an entwined pair spiraling downward hundreds of feet (like a twirling maple seed pod) and separating just before reaching the ground. It is unknown if copulation occurs during this courtship act and on rare occasions the birds fail to separate before hitting the ground.
Captures insects in the air, sometimes at considerable heights.
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