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Sabine's Spinetail - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Sabine’s Spine-tailed Swift

Rhaphidura sabini


11.5 cm. A small, elegant spinetail with a distinctive wing shape and a relatively large head.

  • Blackish upperparts, broken by broad white band on rump and uppertail-coverts (contiguous with white underparts)
  • White underparts contrasting sharply with black upper breast and throat, white with faint dark streaks
  • Short square tail, appearing rounded when spread, rectrix spines up to 4 mm beyond web
  • Hooked outer wing, bulging midwing and pinched at body form distinctive wing shape

Sexes similar.


Patchily in the rainforest of western and central Africa from southern Guinea to eastern DRC, western Uganda and western Kenya.
Fairly common to common.


This is a monotypic species.
Has been considered conspecific with Sao Tome Spinetail. Birds from Gabon have been described as subspecies ogowensis, but this is normaly not accepted.


Found in rainforest, often near water.
Occurs at 700 to 1700m.



Feeds on insects and small beetles.
Forages in the air, often close to the ground but sometimes also at great height.


Breeding season differs through range. The nest is placed in tree hollows or in niches among large tree roots, probably also within man-made structures. The nest is a small, half-cupped structure made of twigs and attached to a vertical surface. Lays 2 to 3 eggs.


Probably a resident species. Data from Liberia suggest some migration.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2013. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.8., with updates to August 2013. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1999. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334252

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