The Horus swift is 13?15 cm long and quite bulky. It appears entirely blackish except for a white patch on the chin and a white rump. It has a medium length forked tail. It has a fluttering flight like little swift. Little swift has a square tail, and more extensive white on the rump than Horus, and white-rumped swift has a more deeply forked tail and a narrower white band. The paler subspecies A. h. fuscobrunneus of southwestern Angola has a small grey throat patch and a brown rump. The form toulsoni of northwestern Angola and Zimbabwe is a dark morph of nominate A. h. horus, with a dark rump and small throat patch. Both dark forms have sometimes been split as separate species.

Habitat and Distribution

It also occurs very discontinuously in much of the rest of the sub-Saharan region, with the Ethiopian mountains and the area from central Kenya into Uganda having large populations. Identification difficulties confuse the limits of this species? range. Birds in South Africa are migratory, wintering further north. Other populations are resident apart from local movements.


It feeds at middle levels over adjacent habitats, but avoids large towns.


The Horus swift breeds in old burrows of bee-eaters, ground woodpeckers, kingfishers and martins, which are typically in natural or artificial sandy banks. The flat nest of vegetation and hair, glued with saliva is built at the end of the tunnel and 1-4 eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated for 28 days to hatching, and the fledging period is about 6 weeks.

Calls and Songs

The call is a buzzing peeeeooo, peeeeooo.