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10
Apr

What happened to swallows ?

It is customary to say that swallows make the spring… For several years, difficult to trust their arrival because their annual migration is disrupted by global warming. Chemicals, insecticides and pesticides have reduced the swallow population by 30% over the last decade. Like other birds, should we fear the disappearance of the swallow ?

hirondelle

A disturbed migration

We are in the spring but, in some areas, swallows are waiting… Migratory birds, they are able to travel up to 10,000 km to reach Africa in late September, where they will spend the winter. In April, swallows return to France to nest and breed. A well-honed routine that allows these birds to find abundant food and a pleasant climate whatever the time of year.

However, in recent years, swallows are less numerous on the Hexagon and their later migration. In France, it is estimated that 40% of swallows have disappeared within two decades. But this is not the only country to notice the swallow’s absence : according to the Spanish Birding Society (SEO BirdLife), Spain is losing 500,000 swallows each year. In general, the swallow population has been declining throughout Europe with a loss of between 20% and 50% since 1970 for Barn Swallows. However, swallows are protected by the Environment Code and the ministerial decree of October 29, 2009 which “forbids destroying or damaging swallows, as well as their nests or broods, under pain of prosecution, with penalties of up to € 15,000 and one year’s imprisonment “. All the same ! This protection status is however undermined by the use of chemicals and the intensification of agricultural practices.

migration-hirondelle

Agricultural practices weigh on the swallow population

Birds are valuable indicators of the quality of ecosystems and our environment. They respond quickly and visibly to changes, and variations in bird populations are excellent clues. This is particularly the case for swallows…

The abundant use of pesticides and insecticides eliminates their main source of food: insects. Many swallows are also poisoned after ingestion of contaminated insects. The modernization of agricultural buildings also makes their reproduction more difficult because modern buildings are not very conducive to nest building. Intensive agriculture results in the gradual disappearance of grasslands, replaced by fields treated with pesticides. The destruction of hedgerows and wild spaces also contributes to the decline of insect populations. If human activity weighs on swallows, climate change also plays an important role…

In the event of drought, swallows are weakened and struggle from the African continent (and through the Sahara desert) to reach Europe. Conversely, the cold can decimate a part of their population and make it difficult to nest. Thus, the cold waves of 1974 had led naturalists to send back to Africa nearly 470 000 swallows who had arrived in France and which began to perish. This year, do not hesitate to welcome and help the swallows

hirondelles

12 Responses

  1. Jacqui

    For the first year in 35 I have no swallows nesting here. I have noted at least 15 species of bird that have gone or are seriously depleted in this time. I am very concerned we are in the midst of extinction but no real concern is being expressed by those in a position to really make a difference.

  2. Shirley Patterson-Wallace

    It’s April 2019 in the state of Washington. For as long as I can remember, they arrive around March 19. So far, there is no sign of them.

    1. B. Clapton

      How interesting….
      Even all the way over in the Western US. Can we do nothing about it? Please see my comment below.
      B.C.

    2. Janice

      I too live in Washington state and am missing the swallows. June 12…the bugs are waiting to be eaten by our swooping friends. Miss them.

  3. B. Clapton

    We have lived here in Kidlington, Oxford, since 1971. This is the first spring we’ve had no swallows pass overhead to the north. Worse still, none have come back to nest in our out building although a pair has ALWAYS taken up residence each spring….possibly for hundreds of years as this is a very old property. For me it is doubly sad as my husband died at the end of March. We always so looked forward to the return of the swallows. No him, no swallows.

  4. Linda Bartlett

    I, too, live in Washington State, on the west side, and ever since I was a child, (I’m 77 now) we’ve always had a swallow box under our eaves, and violet-green swallows nesting in them each and every spring. There are no barn swallows swooping over our fields or over the local ponds here either. The past 2 years and now this year– no swallows are raising a family in our nest box. I really, really miss them and fervently hope they are not disappearing .

  5. Brendan Flynn

    I live in a town in the the West Midlands in England. For the last 30 years the swallows have returned to nest here in mid May. This year there are none. I look out for them every day but its empty skies. Where are they?

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