White-naped Swift Streptoprocne semicollaris

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Apodidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Paul van Els


Distinguishing Characteristics

20.5-25 cm. Shares status as largest swift of the world with Purple Needletail (Hirundapus celebensis) of Southeast Asia. Mostly dark with white crescent across nape.

Similar Species

The only swift in western Mexico that approaches the size of White-naped is White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris), which often flocks with White-naped. White-naped usually can be separated from White-collared by the lack of a white breast band, and the less notched tail. Juvenile White-collared confusingly often show incomplete breast bands, so that tail shape is the most consistently different characteristic. White-collared has useful habit of flexing tail in flight, so tail shape is easily visible (Chantler 2000). Black Swift (Cypseloides niger), although large, is not as sizeable as Streptoprocne swifts, and may only show slightly white scalloping on breast, which is not easily visible in flight, especially at a distance. Also use vocalizations to separate White-naped Swift from others (although vocalizations of White-collared are similar; see Vocalizations), especially at a distance.

Detailed Description

Adults are brownish black, have a blue gloss on the back in good light, and show a distinctive white crescent across the nape. The tail is squared off, but can show a slight notch in flight. No sexual dimorphism.

No information on juveniles, although Chantler (2000) remarks that 'it is likely that plumage of the juvenile, like other Streptoprocne swifts, is lightly white-fringed on the body with less on the rectrice tips and coverts. The white nape band is also possibly reduced."


No information.

Bare Parts

Bare parts all brownish black, similar to plumage.


Length 20.5-25 cm. Wing 22.8-23.3 cm. Mass 170-180 g (n = 2, Dunning 2008). Tail 7.3 cm (n = 1, Ridgway 1911).

Recommended Citation

van Els, P. (2013). White-naped Swift (Streptoprocne semicollaris), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.whnswi1.01