Working for birds in Africa

Christmas cracker at South African roost

Date posted: 
Monday, December 29, 2008

Scientists monitoring at Mount Moreland - South Africa’s largest Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica roost - have captured their first overseas ringed bird from a festively snowy location. The young Barn Swallow had flown all the way from Finland – a total of 11,000 km! “This is an amazing Christmas gift”, said Hilary Vickers of the Lake Victoria Conservancy – sponsors of the Mount Moreland ringing programme.

“We were carefully fitting the swallows with rings so we can monitor their movements when we spotted a bird already carrying one”, said Mount Moreland bird-ringer Andrew Pickles. “A magnifying glass provided the words Helsinki - Finland!”

The Barn Swallow undertakes one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, with many individuals flying thousands of miles in spring to breed in Europe and then repeating the feat in the autumn, to spend the boreal winter in southern Africa.

The Finnish Barn Swallow is the first record of an overseas ringed bird being caught at Mount Moreland. However, it is likely that swallows travel from a number of European countries to the site.

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