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MaleBlue Swallow

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:

  • Initiate and support conservation oriented research on the Blue Swallow and its habitat.
  • Maintain and improve the ecological integrity and area of Blue Swallow grassland sites.
  • Develop ecologically sensible management programs for commercial afforestation, water resource management, prospecting and mining, to prevent negative impacts on the Blue Swallow and its unique grassland habitat.
  • Promote the Blue Swallow as an umbrella species for the maintenance of grassland biodiversity (North-Eastern Mountain Sourveld and Natal Mist Belt).
  • Promote the sustainable non-consumptive use of the Blue Swallow grassland areas.
  • Develop opportunities for employment that will improve the quality of life of people that will benefit directly and indirectly from the Blue Swallow and its unique grassland habitat.
  • Provide opportunities for people to see, understand, and appreciate the Blue Swallow and the other animals, plants and processes making up their unique grassland habitats.

 
CURRENT CONSERVATION STATUS

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 Swallow.

 
CURRENT AFRICAN POPULATION

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.

 
DISTRIBUTION RANGE

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.

 
HABITAT

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.

 
THREATS

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 pairs.

When properly managed tourism can serve as a means for protection for the Blue Swallow and the grassland. Unfortunately, because of the increased number of tourist, tourism is currently creating a threat to the Blue Swallow.

 
CONSERVATION

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).

 
SUCCESSES OF THE BLUE SWALLOW WORKING GROUP SINCE 1988:

  • Initiated the first national (South African) survey of Blue Swallows.
  • Prevented forestation of the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site, Mpumalanga.
  • Initiated the registration of the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site for the conservation of the Blue Swallow and its unique grassland habitat.
  • Prevented surface and underground mining from taking place in the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site, Mpumalanga.
  • Initiated the process to have the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site declared a Protected Natural Environment (Section 16 & 17 of the National Environmental Conservation Act, 1989).
  • Initiated the listing of the Blue Swallow on Appendix 1 and 2 of the international Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, April 1997.
  • Prompted the listing of the Blue Swallow on the list of species in need of concerted action by the Scientific Committee of the international Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, November 1999.
  • Created and maintain a very high public profile for the Blue Swallow and the Blue Swallow Working Group.

 
REFERENCES

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-

Acocks, J.P.H. 1975. Veld Types of South Africa. Mem. Bot. Survey S.A. 40.

Allan, D., Gamble, K., Johnson, D.N., Parker, V., Tarboton, W.R. & Ward, D.M. 1987. "Report on the Blue Swallow in South Africa and Swaziland". Blue Swallow Working Group, Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Brooke, R.K. 1984. South African Red Data Book - Birds. S. Afr. Nat. Sci. Prog. Rpt. 97: 1 - 123.

Butchard, D. 1996. Blue Swallow at Kidepo Valley National Park, Northern Uganda. The Hornbill 46: 15.

Collar, N.J. & Stuart, S.N. 1985. Threatened Birds of Africa and Related Islands. ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. Part 1. 3rd edn. ICBP/IUCN, Cambridge.;

Collar, N.J., Crosby, M.J., & Statterfield, A.J. 1994. Birds to watch 2: The world list of threatened birds. Conservation series, no. 4. Birdlife International, Cambridge.

Duthie, A. 1994. Biodiversity and Afforestation: A Conservation Strategy. Walmsley Environmental Consultants, Report No. W087. Johannesburg (Rivonia).

Earle, R. 1987 Measurements, moult and timing of breeding in the Blue Swallow. Ostrich 58: 182 - 185.

Evans, S.W. 1996. The Impact of Alluvial and Underground Mining on the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site. Endangered Wildlife Trust. Unpublished Report.

Evans, S.W. 1997. Ecotourism development of and the significance of the Stanley Bush Kop Blue Swallow population for the conservation of the species in South Africa. Unpublished report completed for the Mpumalanga Parks Board: Specialist Services.

Evans, S.W. & Bouwman, H. 2000. A Preliminary Look at the Influence of Mist and Rain on the Reproductive Success of the Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea. Proceedings of the 9th Pan African Ornithological Congress, Accra, Ghana.; Johnson, D, Taylor, B & Barnes, K.N. Imprtant Bird Areas in KwaZulu-Natal In: Barnes, K.N. (ed.) 1998. The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Keith, S., Urban, E.K. & Fry, C.H. (Eds.) 1992. Birds of Africa. Vol 4. London. Academic Press.

Louw, A.B. & Rebelo, A.G. 1996. Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Pretoria.

Nasirwa, O. & Njoroge, P. 1996. Status of Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea sites in Busia and Suba Districts, Kenya. Research Reports of the Centre for Biodiversity, National Museums of Kenya: Ornithology 26.

Turner, A & Rose, C. 1989. A handbook to the Swallows and Martins of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Wild, H. & Fernandes, A. (Eds). 1967. Flora of the Zambesiaica: Vegetation map of the flora Zambesiaca area. Salisbury. M.O. Collins (Pvt.) Ltd.