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Critical examination of specimen evidence for pallid swift (Apus pallidus; Aves: Apodidae) in southern Africa

  • Journal Title: Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
  • Volume: Volume 3
  • Issue: 
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 183  - 193
  • Authors:  Gregory B.P. Davies;
  • ISSN: 22204563
  • Abstract:  Pallid swift (Apus pallidus), a dull-brown Palaearctic swift, is known from southern Africa on the basis of a single skin collected at Kuruman, Northern Cape in 1904. The Kuruman specimen has been accepted as a skin of A. pallidus for several decades. Re-examination of this skin, however, shows that its placement with A. pallidus is equivocal, and morphometric and certain plumage features suggest it is a Bradfield's swift (Apus bradfieldi). The two taxa are exceedingly similar in appearance and several reported diagnostic characters were found to be unreliable, such as the presence of black throat streaking and a white throat patch. Problems of separating the two swifts have been under-emphasized in the literature. Pro tempore, I argue that the Kuruman skin cannot be placed with A. pallidus and that this species should be deleted from regional check-lists and books. Means for reliably distinguishing between the two species and the nature of plumage variation, especially throat colour, in A. bradfieldi are issues that require much more investigation.
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