Birdlife South Africa has elected the Barn Swallow as the “bird of the year” to create awareness about migratory birds in general, wetland conservation and global climate change.
Barn Swallows (Europese Swaeltjies) are one of the most widespread swallow species in the world. Millions of these swallows migrate between Europe/Asia and Africa each year which means covering a distance of about 10,000 kilometers between their breeding and non-breeding grounds.
These swallows start arriving in October and can be seen in all habitats, but especially at a large roosting site that is located on a private game reserve adjacent to Durbanville. At dusk thousands of Barn Swallows create a spectacle as they mill around above the phragmites reedbed. Suddenly, within a period of ten minutes they all drop into the reeds and the sky is empty.
The Tygerberg Bird Club has ringed over 3,000 Barn Swallows over the past three summers and caught 7 individuals that have been ringed in the United Kingdom and one in Spain.
The swallows moult before leaving South Africa in April and the males look magnificent in their metallic blue plumage which sports a pale belly, a deep red face, and long tail steamers.
Next time you see a Barn Swallow, think about how many kilometres it might have clocked in two, three or four years.