Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Fork-tailed Palm-Swift Tachornis squamata

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Apodidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Sean Cooper

Of the three species of palm-swift that occur in the Neotropics, the cigar-shaped Fork-tailed Palm-Swift is by far the most widespread in distribution, occurring from eastern Colombia south to eastern Peru and northern Bolivia, and east across much of Amazonia and the interior of eastern Brazil, as well as in the Guianas and on Trinidad. The species is easily recognized by virtue of its very narrow, elongated, and almost spindly-looking body and wings, combined with its rapid, 'rocking' flight pattern with flickering wingbeats. There is no overlap with either of the other two species of Tachornis, Antillean Palm-Swift (Tachornis phoenicobia) of the Caribbean, and Pygmy Swift (Tachornis furcata) of the Maracaibo Basin on the border of western Venezuela and northeastern Colombia. Throughout its range, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift is closely associated with Mauritia palms, although it apparently also will breed in Bactris palms. Fork-tailed Palm-Swift is present from the lowlands up to at least 1000 m, and is found over towns and cities, riverine forests, seasonally wet grasslands, and second-growth scrub, among other habitats, as long as suitable palms are available for breeding. Nests, which are pouch-like structures, are usually solitary, and placed on an outward-facing old palm leaf.


© Ted Parker

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Cooper, S. (2015). Fork-tailed Palm-Swift (Tachornis squamata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.