The Short-tailed Swift, Chaetura brachyura, is a common resident breeding bird on Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada and St Vincent, and in tropical South America from Panama, Colombia and the Guianas south to Ecuador, Peru and Brazil; in Brazil, the entire Amazon Basin, excluding much of the southeastern Basin.
This small swift is found in a range of habitats including savanna, open woodland, and cultivation. The nest is a 5 cm wide shallow half-saucer of twigs and saliva attached to a vertical surface. This is often a man-made structure like a chimney or manhole, as with its relative, the Chimney Swift C. pelagica , but natural caves and tree cavities are also used.
Up to seven white eggs (average 3.7) are incubated by both parents for 17-18 days. The young leave the nest in a further two weeks, but remain near it, clinging to the cavity wall without flying, for another two weeks.
The Short-tailed Swift is about 10.5 cm long, and weighs 20 g. It has long narrow wings, a robust body and a short tail. The sexes are similar. It is mainly black with a pale rump and tail. It can be distinguished from related species in its range, such as the Band-rumped Swift, C. spinicauda or the Gray-rumped Swift, C. cinereiventris by the lack of contrast between the rump and the tail, the latter being much darker in the other species. The flight call is a rapid chittering sti-sti-stew-stew-stew.
The Short-tailed Swift feeds in flight on flying insects, including winged ants and termites. It is very gregarious and forms communal roosts when not breeding. Predation by bats at the nest sites has been suspected.