White-rumped Swifts breed in much of sub-Saharan Africa and we have seen then regularly when leading tours in Uganda and Tanzania and in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. They also now occur in Morocco and the Iberian peninsula; the first record for Portugal was in 1983 and the first confirmed breeding here was in 1995.
Although this is still a scarce breeding species in Portugal, it does seem to be well established. We know of only four breeding sites but there must surely be more and we hope to find time during the next few weeks to try and locate them.
Because of the birds’ comparative rarity in Portugal we have been reluctant in the past to take anyone to see them and have declined several requests. However, we know that other guides have taken a different view and perhaps this is understandable given that details of several breeding sites have now been published. Recently, the Portuguese Rarities Committee (Comité Português Raridades) removed White-rumped Swift from its list of species requiring approval.
Against this background we have decided this year that we will be open to requests to see White-rumped Swifts and, in fact, we have already in the last couple of weeks provided two clients with great views of these attractive little birds.
Attractive they may be, but they do take over the nests of other birds, not necessarily waiting until the original occupants have finished with them! In Africa, Little Swifts and Wire-tailed Swallows are among those who give up their nests; in Portugal, it is Red-rumped Swallows that are the victims. Red-rumps nest under bridges and culverts and on other man-made structures and they are quite common here. White-rumps therefore have plenty of nests to choose from and so it probably won’t be easy for us to find new sites.