The status of Blue Swallow in KwaZulu-Natal from 2000/01 to 2011/12

Athol Marchant¹, Wendy Arnott²

¹Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; PO Box 13053, Cascades 3202
²Blue Swallow monitor; PO Box 328, Underberg 3257

Blue Swallows are listed globally as Vulnerable by the IUCN, and as Critically Endangered in South Africa. This intra-African migratory species is threatened by destruction, degradation and fragmentation of its grassland and wetland habitats on both its breeding grounds and its non-breeding grounds. These swallows have disappeared as breeding birds from the rest of their South African distribution, leaving KwaZulu-Natal as the last stronghold for Blue Swallows in South Africa. In KZN this species has a narrow habitat preference for moist mistbelt grassland where it forages and nests.
In the 2011/12 breeding season 34 properties (chosen from known historic and active sites) were visited and on 23 of these properties Blue Swallows were seen. Thirty two active nests (i.e. nests lined with fresh mud/grass or with feathers) were found and these nest sites were visited on a regular basis from the end of September 2011 (when the birds arrived) to 31 March 2012 (soon after which the birds departed). Of the 32 active nests three occurred in iMpendle NR (state land), and thus the bulk (>90%) of nests occur on private land. Data were collected on the number of eggs per nest, number of chicks per nest, and number of fledglings per nest. By the end of the breeding season 24 of the 32 active nests had successfully produced fledglings, and overall 108 eggs, 81 chicks and 80 fledglings were recorded.
The 2011/12 results were compared with the previous 11 breeding seasons. There is a definite decline over the 12 seasons for each aspect of breeding i.e. number of active nests, eggs, chicks and fledglings. However, the trend for number of active nests and for number of breeding attempts at iMpendle NR was up, but this did not translate into an increase in the number of fledglings. The intensity of monitoring in the previous breeding seasons is likely to have varied over the 12 seasons under review, especially as there have been a number of different monitors involved, and there appeared to be no standard approach. An EKZNW Blue Swallow monitoring plan has now been developed to bring role players together to standardize monitoring and data management in KZN.  As part of this plan the 2011/12 season had a contracted full time monitor and the results are considered to be as accurate as possible, and full time monitoring will be continued in future breeding seasons.

Presentation Topic

The status of Blue Swallow in KwaZulu-Natal from 2000/01 to 2011/12


Contact Mr Marchant:

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; PO Box 13053, Cascades 3202


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