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.

Sooty Swift Cypseloides fumigatus

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Apodidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Nathaniel Hernandez


Distinguishing Characteristics

Sooty Swift is a medium-sized swift. Typical of Cypseloides swifts, it has blackish brown plumage and overall is a featureless bird. This species also has a square tail, similar to most other members of the genus. There is no discernable sexual dimorphism.

Similar Species

Sooty Swift is similar to most other medium to large Cypseloides swifts, such as Great Dusky Swift (Cypseloides senex) and Rothschild's Swift (Cypseloides rothschildi). The distribution Sooty Swift broadly overlaps that of Great Dusky Swift, but Great Dusky Swift is larger, is paler brown, and the feathers of the head have pale tips, creating a "frosted" appearance. There is little or no geographic overlap with Rothschild's Swift, which is very similar to Sooty Swift but is paler brown. In the hand, the tips of the rectrices of Sooty Swift are bare and protruding; these bare protruding rectrix shafts are lacking in Rothschild's Swift.

Detailed Description

The following description is based on Chantler (2000):

Adult: Sexes similar. The plumage generally is blackish brown. The head is brown, with a black patch surrounding the eye, and a slightly paler forecrown. The auriculars also are slight paler. The back is dark brown, darker than the head and nape, and slightly darker than the rump. The upper surface of the rectrices is black brown; the under surface is grayer. The lesser and median wing coverts and the outer primaries are blackish brown (fairly similar in color to the back); the inner primaries, the secondaries, and the greater coverts are paler brown. The inner webs of the remiges are paler than the outer webs. There is very indistinct pale fringing on the coverts and remiges. The undersurface of the remiges is paler than the uppersurface.

Juvenile: Similar to the adult, but with indistinct gray fringing on the body and with more distinct grayish white fringing on the remiges, particularly on the secondaries.



Bare Parts

Iris: brown

Bill: black

Tarsi and toes: black

Bare part color data from Belton (1984).


Total length: 15 cm (Chantler 2000)

Linear measurements:

wing length: male, 153 mm (n = 1, Brazil; Eisenmann and Lehmann 1962); mean 146.8 mm (range 142.5-146.5 mm, n = 4, Brazil, sex not specified; Chantler 2000)

tail length: male, 49 mm (n = 1, Brazil; Eisenmann and Lehmann 1962); 46-47 mm (n = 2, sex not specified; Roesler et al. 2009)

tarsus length: male, 12 mm (n = 1, Brazil; Eisenmann and Lehmann 1962); 13.2-14.6 mm (n = 4, sex not specified; Roesler et al. 2009)

Mass: male, range 40-44 g (n = 3, Brazil; Belton 1984); female, 41 g (n = 1, Brazil; Belton 1984)

Recommended Citation

Hernandez, N. (2014). Sooty Swift (Cypseloides fumigatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.