Little swifts (Apus affinis) are readily identified by their small size. Their wingspan is 33 cm compared to the 42 cm of common swift. They are black except for a white rump, the white extending on to the flanks. They have a short square tail. The flight is fluttering like a house martin. These birds have very short legs which they use only for clinging to vertical surfaces. The scientific name comes from the Greek ?????, apous, meaning `without feet`. They never settle voluntarily on the ground. The little swift is superficially similar to a barn swallow or house martin.

Habitat and Distribution

Little swifts breed around habitation and cliffs from southern Spain, Africa northeastwards through southern Pakistan and India and Sri Lanka. Unlike the more northerly common swift, many birds are resident, but some populations are migratory, and winter further south than their breeding areas. They wander widely on migration, and are seen as rare vagrants in much of Europe and Asia.


Little swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls. They are notoriously slow risers in the mornings.


Little swifts build their nests in hole in buildings or sometimes on cliffs, laying 1-4 eggs. A swift will return to the same site year after year, rebuilding its nest when necessary. A species of bedbug Cimex hemipterus has been recorded from its nest in India.

Calls and Songs

The call is a high twittering.