BIRD OF THE MONTH: APRIL 2006 – SWALLOW

Posted by NH Admin on Thursday, 30th March 2006, 00:00


Swallow    Hirundo rustica

 


Photo credit: Malene Thyssen,
www.mtfoto.dk/malene/

Size

Length = 17-19cm   Wingspan = 32-35cm

Physical description

Male: red-brown throat and forehead, dark-blue upperparts, creamy-white underparts, dark-blue chest-bar. Forked tail with long streamers, long wings, slender body, short neck and short bill.

 

Female: similar but shorter tail streamers.

Voice

Call: a loud ‘swit-swit’.

 

Song: a twittering, hurried warble.

Diet

Flying insects: flies, bluebottles, bees, aphids.

Lifespan

Up to 5 years.

Habitat

Breeds in open country, where it can find plentiful food supplies and build a nest.

 

Feeding sites: field edges, village greens, cricket pitches, hedgerows, manure heaps, fresh water.

 

Nesting sites: on a high beam inside barns, sheds, stables and other outbuildings. These sites are usually in the vicinity of farms and villages, and rarely in developed areas.

Geographic range

Whole UK.

Migration

Migrant: usually arrives in April, leaves by October.

Conservation status

Declining, due to a reduction in habitat quality in both its breeding and wintering territories.

Related species

House martin, sand martin.

Where can I see this bird in Northwood / Medham?

Several places. Try the stretch of Pallance Lane near Pallance Farm, or the fields west of Ridge Copse. Often perches on telephone wires and other overhead cables.

Why is this bird worth seeing?

Tradition tells us that the swallow is a sign of spring. This is due to its arrival in April from its wintering territories, leading to an association with lighter evenings and warmer weather. Swallows fly all the way from southern Africa to breed and raise their young here, and when autumn comes the adults and juveniles will make the return journey. They often gather in large flocks with house martins, and perch on overhead wires, before returning south. Each spring and autumn this cycle will repeat itself, leading to a migration distance of approximately 20,000 km.

 

Swallows spend a lot of time in the air, and their flight has been described as relaxed, strong and agile. Their speed through the air and graceful movements, incorporating skimming, swooping and wheeling motions, prove that they are well adapted to this way of living. They often fly low, catching insects in the air or from the surface of the water.

Binoculars needed?

Useful for getting a closer look.

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