An optimistic assessment indicates that there are only 1500 breeding pairs of Blue Swallows remaining for their entire African breeding distribution range.
Blue Swallow Working Group - Endangered Wildlife Trust
OBJECTIVES OF THE BLUE SWALLOW WORKING GROUP:
The Blue Swallow is considered to be one of South Africa’s most
endangered bird species. The Blue Swallow is part of the unique grassland
ecosystem of South Africa. Protection of the grassland benefits many
grassland species that may otherwise become as endangered as the Blue
An optimistic assessment indicates that there are only 1500 breeding
pairs of Blue Swallows remaining for their entire African breeding
distribution range. The adult breeding population total is approximately
3 000 individuals.
The global distribution of the Blue Swallow is limited to 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout the year the swallows migrate to Uganda, western Kenya, the and north-eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The birds migrate between these countries throughout the year and move to their breeding grounds in September.
The Blue Swallow lives in high altitude, high rainfall, and mist-belt grasslands. Because the birds will only breed in grasslands with mist during the breeding season they are found in only two grassland types. The North-Eastern Mountain Sourveld and the Natal Mist Belt. Protection of these grassland regions is extremely important. The two grassland types are not only home to the Blue Swallow but 130 endemic plant species and 51 endemic plant species.
There are many threats facing the Blue Swallow today. Fragmentation and reduction of grassland area can be attributed to forestry practices, mineral rights, agriculture, and increasing tourism. The grasslands are well suited to grow many exotic of commercial timber. The timber industry uses the grassland to produce timber, pulp and paper products. In the case of the Nyanga National Park commercial timber has been planted right up to the edge of the park.
The mineral industry is another industry contributing to the destruction of the grassland. The private ownership of mineral rights represents the biggest threat to the Blue Swallow. Road building associated with both mining and timber industries, and for increased transportation needs, can highly fragment the grassland.
Agriculture can also cause problems for the Blue Swallow. Conversion
of grasslands to potato, maize and sugar cane cultivation claming the
Blue Swallow habitat. Grazing can have detrimental effects if not monitored.
There are many people who need to graze their cattle on the grasslands.
Over grazing, annual burning of the grassland and human disturbance while
herding cattle have all decreased the number of Blue Swallow breeding
To protect the Blue Swallow conservation of their grassland habitat, over their entire distribution range, is essential. Working to resolve the conflicts between the requirements of the Swallow and the factors that threaten it will be the only way to preserve the Blue Swallow.
The Blue Swallow has been listed on Appendix I and II of the international Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Endangered Wildlife Trust. 2003. 25 Sep. 2003 <http://www.ewt.org.za/>.
References used on the Endangered Wildlife Trust Blue Swallow project description and information include-
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