Fascinating Facts

Swallows

Swallows are summer visitors, arriving from late March to mid-May. They spend their winter in South Africa, returning in September and October, travelling through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco and across the Sahara. Some birds will follow the west coast of Africa avoiding the Sahara.

They migrate by day at low altitudes and find food on the way. Despite accumulating some fat reserves before crossing large areas such as the Sahara Desert, they are vulnerable to starvation during these crossings. Migration is a hazardous time and many birds die from starvation, exhaustion and in storms.

Migrating swallows cover 200 miles a day, mainly during daylight, at speeds of 17-22 miles per hour. The maximum flight speed is 35 mph. 

In general, the male will select a nest site, and then attract a female using song and flight. Both adults build the nest from mud and plant fibres against a beam or shelf in buildings or a ledge on cliffs. Existing nests are often refurbished, and there are instances where nests have been reused for nearly 50 years.

The swallow is called the "bird of freedom" because it cannot endure captivity and will only mate in the wild.

Swallows are able to produce many different calls or songs, which are used to express excitement, to communicate with others of the same species, during courtship, or as an alarm when a predator is in the area. The typical song of swallows is a simple, sometimes musical twittering. A “tswit-tswit” call is given when a bird of prey is spotted.

They are found around the world on all continents except Antarctica.

Swallows and swifts are unrelated yet superficially very similar in appearance.

The swallow tattoo was a symbol used historically by sailors to show off their sailing experience. According to one legend, a sailor tattooed with one swallow had travelled over 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km); a sailor with two swallows had travelled 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km).


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