Black Swift (Cypseloides niger)

Black Swift


The American black swift, or more simply black swift (Cypseloides niger), is a species of bird that is found from northern British Columbia in Canada through the United States and Mexico to Costa Rica and Brazil. They are also found in the Caribbean.

Distribution And Habitat

The Black Swift occurs in Western North America, Central America, Guyana, Columbia, and throughout the West Indies (Raffaele and others 1998). It is a summer resident migrant species in Puerto Rico and is very rare in winter (Kepler 1971, Raffaele 1989a). The Black Swift is more common in mountainous areas (e.g., El Yunque National Forest and Maricao) than in the lowlands and coastal areas (Raffaele and others 1998), but it has been seen over the coast in the Guánica dry forest (Kepler 1971). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 26 records within 20 hexagons or 4 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 20 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 5 percent (1) of the hexagons, probable in 10 percent (2), and possible in 55 percent (11), while the species was observed in 30 percent (6) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map).

Black Swift Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Black Swift nesting sites are associated with crevices in cliffs, often near or under a waterfall. Previously published reports indicate that breeding takes place from March to September (Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas Black Swift distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 79Black Swift/Vencejo Negroresults indicate that the breeding season for this species extends mostly during the first period of the year (March–July) and peaks in June (see chart). In general, this species breeds in the subtropical wet forest, but during the peak of the breeding season it uses other life zones, a pattern observed in many other species. Results show that this species breeds mostly within the subtropical wet and subtropical moist forest life zones (50 and 36 percent of the hexagons, respectively). Breeding for this species was also reported for one hexagon (7 percent of the hexagons) in both the subtropical dry forest life zone and subtropical rain forest life zone (see table and map).


Although the Black Swift population is slowly decreasing due to habitat degradation, among other causes, it is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2018). Locally, this species is listed as vulnerable (PRDNER 2016). In Puerto Rico, the Black Swift has a protected habitat in land of 40 percent or 134 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (335 km2).