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Overview

Distribution

Chaetura vauxi, commonly known as Vaux's Swift, can be found anywhere from southwestern Canada to the western United States, and in Mexico, Central America, and northern Venezuela. Their breeding range includes western North America from southeast Alaska, northwest and southern British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana south to central California. The southern breeding range consists of the Yucatan Peninsula, western Mexico, and as far south as Panama and Venezuela. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Vaux's Swifts that do indeed migrate reside north of Mexico and migrate south. They arrive in the north in late April to early May and migrate south between mid-August to late September. Swifts generally fly in large flocks. Swifts that live in southern regions are most likely residents. Swifts can be found during the winter time in central Mexico south to Middle America and Venezuela, sometimes in central California. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: southeastern Alaska, southern British Columbia, northern Idaho, and western Montana south to central California (migratory populations); also southwestern Tamaulipas and southeastern San Luis Potosi, Yucatan Peninsula, western Mexico south to Panama, and in northern Venezuela (resident populations) (AOU 1983, Bull and Collins 1993, Rappole 1995). NON-BREEDING: central Mexico south through breeding range in Middle America and Venezuela; casual in California, southern Louisiana, and western Florida (AOU 1983, Bull and Collins 1993).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Chaetura vauxi are the smallest swifts in North America. The length of their body is generally 11 cm. Size cannot be used to determine gender. Vaux's swifts are designed for speed; they posses an aerodynamic shape with long, pointed wings, short and blunt humeri, and a small body. These swifts have short legs and small feet. The bill is short and stout. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Both sexes have very similar plumage, plain grayish brown appearance sometimes highlighted by a slight green iridescence. "Rump and upper tail coverts range from a pale brownish gray to a duller shade like that of the back" (Wetmore 1957). The upper breast and throat area are paler than the rest of their underbelly. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Range mass: 15 to 22 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 12 cm

Weight: 17 grams

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Diagnostic Description

Differs from the chimney swift (CHAETURA PELAGICA) in smaller size, usually paler rump and ventral body plumage, shorter wings, and lesser tendency to soar.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Vaux's Swifts generally can be found in old-growth forests consisting of coniferous and deciduous vegetation. Very important to swifts' nesting grounds are large, hollow trees that are either dead or alive. (Bull, Collins 1993)

During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts occupy forests of coast redwood and Douglas firs. They forage for food in naturally occuring openings in the forest and along streams as well as high above the tree-tops. In the Yucatan, swifts have been seen nesting on the sides of limestone wells. (Sutton and Phelps 1948)

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; forest ; scrub forest

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Comments: Found in mature forests but also forages and migrates over open country (Tropical to Temperate zone) (AOU 1983; Bull and Collins 1993). Forages over land and water. Often roosts in large flocks in hollow trees or chimneys just prior to and during migration (Bull and Blumton 1997, Eshbaugh 2000).

BREEDING: In North America, prefers late seral stages of coniferous and mixed deciduous/coniferous forests; more abundant in old-growth forests than in younger stands (Manuwal and Huff 1987, Gilbert and Allwine 1991, Huff and Raley 1991, Lundquist and Mariani 1991; Manuwal 1991; Bull and Collins 1993). In Washington, found more abundant in old-growth (> 250 years old) than in younger (< 165 years old) forest stands (Manuwal and Huff 1987), and more abundant in wet old-growth than mesic or dry old-growth (Manuwal 1991). In the southern Washington Cascade Mountains, abundance was positively correlated with high density of live trees >100 cm in diameter at breast height (mainly Douglas-fir [PSEUDOTSUGA MENZIESII], Western Hemlock [TSUGA HETEROPHYLLA], and Western Redcedar [THUJA PLICATA]) and with large snags (Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock; Lundquist and Mariani 1991). The multi-layered broken overstory of old-growth forests may also provide easier access to aerial insects than closed, continuous canopies of younger forests (Lundquist and Mariani 1991). In northern California, uses Douglas-fir forests but highest densities are in coastal redwood (SEQUOIA SEMPERVIRENS) habitats (Sterling and Paton 1996; CDFG 2000).

BREEDING AND WINTERING: In the neotropics, found in mixed coniferous-broadleaf, deciduous broadleaf, and broadleaf evergreen forests (Rappole et al. 1995). In Mexico, breeds in highlands, ranging into lowlands in migration or winter; although a disjunct population is resident on the Yucatan Peninsula (Howell and Webb 1995). In Honduras, common in humid Caribbean lowlands to interior highlands up to 2000m; one breeding record in cloud forest; flock also recorded feeding around a large almendro tree (DIPTERYX OLEIFERA) in an open field (Monroe 1968). In Costa Rica, resident in highlands (700-2000 m), occasionally ranging higher or into lowlands (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

NEST SITES: Nests are usually in large-diameter hollow trees, broken-top trees, or stumps; also in chimneys. Nest is a saucer-shaped structure of twigs and spruce or pine needles glued to interior vertical wall of hollow tree, stump, chimney, dark attic, or similar dark cranny. Usually locates nest near bottom of cavity (Baicich and Harrison 1997; Bull and Collins 1993).

In Oregon, nests have been recorded in live or dead Grand Fir (ABIES GRANDIS) and Bigleaf Maple (ACER MACROPHYLLUM) with hollow chambers where heartwood had decayed (Bull and Cooper 1991; Bull and Collins 1993). For 21 nests located in a northeastern Oregon study, nest trees averaged 67.5 cm diameter at breast height (range 45-96 cm) and 25 m tall (range 15-37 m), and usually occurred in old-growth forest with an average canopy closure of 71%. All of these nests were in trees hollowed out by Indian paint fungus (ECHINODONTIUM TINCTORUM) and with an entrance hole excavated by Pileated Woodpeckers (Bull and Cooper 1991). In Washington, one nest recorded in a broken-topped Western Redcedar (THUJA PLICATA) 10 m tall and 76 cm diameter at breast height in old-growth forest (Lundquist and Mariani 1991). In Montana, three nests recorded in old broken-topped Western Hemlock (TSUGA HETEROPHYLLA; Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963). Less typical records in cottonwood (POPULUS spp.) and sycamore (Platanus spp.; Taylor 1905). In British Columbia, the only confirmed tree nest was in a hollow Bigleaf Maple; there are several other records of birds seen entering or leaving Western Redcedars and Black Cottonwoods (POPULUS TRICHOCARPA), but nesting was not confirmed (Campbell et al. 1990, M. G. Shepard, pers. comm.).

ROOSTS: Two roosts were recorded in northeastern Oregon, both in Grand Fir trees 200-300 years old, > 100 cm diameter at breast height in old-growth forest stands (Bull 1991). Postfledging swifts in Oregon roosted in the nest tree (44% of juveniles, 64% of adults) or in trees up to 9.2 kilometers away. Roost trees were hollow, live or dead grand firs (94%) or ponderosa pines (6%), with an average DBH of 77 cm and an average height of 26 m (Bull and Blumton 1997). One record of birds roosting in the open: in southern California a large tight cluster was found on the trunk of a tamarisk tree (TAMARIX spp.; Stager 1965). In Oregon, the largest migratory roost (15,000 to 40,000 birds) is in a large brick chimney at a school in Portland (Eshbaugh 2000).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Breeding populations in U.S. and Canada make long migrations to Mexico, Central America and Venezuela (Bull and Collins 1993). A few winter irregularly in southern coastal lowlands of California (CDFG 2000). Resident throughout the year in Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela but may make local migrations to lowlands (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Howell and Webb 1995).

In Oregon, some left their nesting areas in late August and early September and were found at large communal roosts sheltering more than 500 swifts; these large roosts were used until mid-September when swifts left the study area (Bull and Blumton 1997).

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Trophic Strategy

The main foods consumed year round are insects and spiders. During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts soar above the forest canopy and swoop down, pausing at a tree to feed on insects flying near the tree. These swifts are generally spotted soaring above mature forests approximately 20 to 50 meters above the top of the canopy. (Bull, Collins 1993)

During the breeding season, Vaux's swifts feed both in flocks and alone. They capture prey mid-flight. When feeding nestlings, swifts return to the nest with a mouth full of food items. Generally, during the breeding season, these items consisted of flies, hoverflies, ants, bees, planthoppers, aphids, spindlebugs, lanternflies, bark beetles, moths, mayflies, true bugs, and spiders. (Bull, Collins 1993)

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Comments: Feeds on small flying insects; catches insects in the air. Feeds in long, continuous foraging flights high over varied habitats; also at lower levels over forest openings, burns, rivers and lakes (Grinnell and Miller 1944). In Oregon, foraged up to 5.4 km from the nest but mostly near the nest stand (Bull and Beckwith 1993). Often joins other swifts in feeding at edges of rainstorms (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Campbell et al. 1990). Feeds on leafhoppers, true flies; see Bull and Beckwith (1993) for extensive information on diet in Oregon.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Forages and migrates during day. May enter torpor in periods of cold weather (Terres 1980). Number of birds at two tree roosts monitored in northeastern Oregon ranged from 9 to 479, with highest counts in spring (Bull 1991). During migration can gather in very large roosting flocks; up to 40,000 regularly roost in one large chimney in Portland (Eshbaugh 2000), and other large chimney roosts occur in a variety of Oregon cities (Bull 2000) and in Los Angeles, California.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
61 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: There is little information concerning the lifespan of these animals, though they have been reported to live up to 5.1 years in the wild (Clapp et al. 1983).
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Reproduction

Vaux's swifts pair off around May shortly after arriving to the breeding grounds. In northeast Oregon swifts begin the construction of their nest during the month of June, while nest construction begins in May in western Oregon (Thompson 1977). Incubation occurs between mid-June and late July. Nestlings appear early July till early September. Fledglings develop between late July till early September. (Bull, Collins 1993)

As for parental behavior, incubation of the eggs starts only after the entire clutch of eggs is laid. Eggs are constantly wtached by both adults. Both adults share responsibility for incubating eggs. Mating and parenting is usually monogamous, but there are reports of three swifts feeding one brood. This suggests cooperative breeding, similar to that seen in the Chimney Swift. (Bull, Collins 1993)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 19 days.

Average eggs per season: 5.

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Nests singly or in small colony. Clutch size is 3-7 (usually 4-7). Incubation lasts 18-20 days (Stiles and Skutch 1989; Baicich and Harrison 1997). Young leave nest after 20-21 days; will perch on interior wall the nest is built on, but may not fly freely for up to another 7 days (Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963). At least some birds nest at one year of age (Bull and Collins 1996). Will return to same nest site (Baldwin and Zaczkowski 1963; Bull and Collins 1996). In an Oregon study, 70% of 46 nest trees were re-used in subsequent years, and nest site fidelity was also high, with 14 of 15 marked birds recaptured at the same nest tree (Bull and Collins 1996).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Chaetura vauxi

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGCCTACTTATCCGAGCAGAACTTGGACAACCAGGGACCCTCCTAGGAGATGATCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTTACTGCTCACGCTTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCAATTATGATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCACTTATAATTGGAGCACCTGACATAGCCTTCCCACGAATAAACAATATAAGCTTTTGACTCCTTCCCCCATCATTCCTCCTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCAACAGTTGAAGCAGGAGCAGGAACAGGCTGAACTGTATACCCCCCACTAGCCGGCAATCTAGCCCACGCAGGAGCATCAGTAGACCTCGCTATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTAGCAGGTGTCTCCTCCATCCTAGGTGCAATCAACTTCATCACAACTGCCATCAATATAAAACCACCTGCCCTTTCACAATACCAAACACCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATTACCGCCGTCCTACTACTCCTCTCTCTCCCCGTCCTCGCTGCAGGCATCACTATACTCCTAACTGACCGTAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCAGCCGGAGGAGGTGATCCCATCTTATACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chaetura vauxi

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)