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Seychelles Swiftlet Aerodramus elaphrus
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The species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a very small range: it nests at just three known sites, with possibly over 95% of all known breeding birds concentrated at one cave. Overall population trends are unclear. If contraction of its breeding range continues, or populations are shown to be undergoing a continuous decline owing to a decrease in the number of nest-caves, perhaps compounded by the continuing decline in quality of marshy feeding areas, it should be uplisted to Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Aerodramus elaphrus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Collocalia as C. elaphra.

Collocalia elaphra Oberholser, 1906

10-12 cm. Small, dark swift. Greyish-brown all over, but a little paler below. Similar spp. Vagrant Little Swift Apus affinis is dark brown with a white rump. Voice Soft twittering (flying groups), metallic clicking (within caves).

Distribution and population
Collocalia elaphra is endemic to the Seychelles and ranges over the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, with one known breeding site on each island. A colony on Félicité has disappeared, as has one on Mahé (; Watson 1984). The La Digue cave held 35-45 nests in 1996-1997 (Rocamora 1997a), but as numbers have fluctuated in the past (MacDonald 1978; Watson 1984) it is unclear whether there is a continuing decline at this site. In the Praslin colony, 56 nests and 152 birds were estimated in 1977 (MacDonald 1978), with 60-80 nests from 1980 onwards (Rocamora 1997a; Watson 1984). Studies in 1996-1997 estimated the total population at 2,500-3,000 individuals (Rocamora 1997a).

Population justification
Studies in 1996-1997 estimated the total population at 2,500-3,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 1,700-2,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

It is an aerial, insectivorous species, and feeds over a variety of habitats including forest and wetlands. Flying ants form the majority of prey caught (MacDonald 1978). On Praslin and Mahé, it is most commonly seen flying over boulder-filled valleys or rocky slopes in the hills, usually in small flocks (MacDonald 1978). It nests colonially on the roofs of deep caves, laying a single egg (MacDonald 1978). There is increasing evidence that it breeds year-round (G. Rocamora in litt. 1999).

The past decline of this species may have been due to the widespread use of insecticides such as DDT, perhaps the collection of nests for bird-nest soup, and the ongoing drainage of wetlands (Shah 1997) for housing and tourist developments in coastal areas, although this may not have a direct effect as the species feeds mainly elsewhere (G. Rocamora in litt. 2007). In the future, development encroachment could impact upon nest-caves and buffer areas (S. Parr in litt. 1999). Quarrying may be a threat, and led to the destruction of a Praslin nest-cave in the 1970s (G. Rocamora in litt. 1999; A. Skerrett in litt. 1999). Barn Owls Tyto alba are likely predators of this species (Rocamora 1997a), and can limit the number of potential nest-sites by direct disturbance or occupation (A. Skerrett in litt. 1999). Cats may be a threat where nests are accessible to them (Rocamora 1997a; A. Skerrett in litt. 1999). Marshes on La Digue have been invaded by introduced plant species and it has been suggested that this has affected invertebrates dependent on the marsh ecosystem (Rocamora 1997a), reducing the food supply for the species (Gerlach 1996), although this is unproven.

Conservation Actions Underway
Cave sites on Praslin and La Digue are monitored by Ministry of Environment rangers (S. Parr in litt. 1999; G. Rocamora in litt. 2007). Programmes for the control of invasive wetland plants are ongoing (G. Rocamora in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue regular monitoring of cave sites (R. Lucking in litt. 1999; Rocamora 1997a). Create protected areas to encompass all known nest-caves and buffer areas and assign legal protection status (Rocamora 1997a). Control cats and Barn Owls in the vicinity of colonies (Rocamora 1997a). Conserve rich feeding grounds, such as marshes, by eradication of invasive, introduced aquatic plants (Rocamora 1997a; G. Rocamora in litt. 1999).

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

Gerlach, J. 1996. New threats to Seychelles birds. Birdwatch 20: 18-24.

MacDonald, R. A. 1978. The biology of the Seychelles Cave Swiftlet Aerodramus (Francicus) elaphrus.

Rocamora, G. 1997. Rare and threatened species, sites and habitats monitoring programme in Seychelles: monitoring methodologies and recommended priority actions.

Shah, N. J. 1997. Seychelles biodiversity assessment. Division of Environment, Mahe, Seychelles.

Shah, N.J.; Parr, S.J. in prep.. Rapid biodiversity assessment of Felicite, 19 May.

Watson, J. 1984. Land birds: endangered species on the granitic Seychelles. In: Stoddart, D.R. (ed.), Biogeography and ecology of the Seychelles Islands, pp. 513-527. Dr W Junk, The Hague.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Warren, B.

Lucking, R., Parr, S., Rocamora, G., Skerrett, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Aerodramus elaphrus. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Seychelles swiftlet (Collocalia elaphra) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Apodidae (Swifts)
Species name author Oberholser, 1906
Population size 1700-2000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 210 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species