Bird of The Year 2011

Bird of the Year 2011 - Barn Swallow

Funding for Bird of the Year 2011 was generously donated by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).

About the Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica – formerly known as the European Swallow in Europe and Africa – is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. Its breeding range includes Europe, much of Asia, and almost the whole of North America. Once breeding has finished, and the northern winter approaches, the swallows migrate south. Over 100 million come to Africa, and the Barn Swallow is a widespread and common summer visitor to southern Africa. At the end of the southern summer the migration is reversed, the swallows arriving back on their breeding grounds to coincide with the spring flush of insect food.

So at both ends of its range the Barn Swallow is the welcome harbinger of spring. This, and its attractive and charismatic life style account for its popularity, and make it a good choice for Bird of the Year 2011

Description of the Barn Swallow

Like all swallows, the body is slightly longer than that of most other small birds, and this is especially true of the wings and the elongated outer tail feathers. These are features typical of birds that spend most of their time in the air. Overall body length is about 20 cm, with males having slightly longer tails than females. Otherwise the sexes are alike. Body weight averages 20 grams. The upperparts are deep glossy blue, glinting in sunlight. The underparts vary from pale cream to off-white, even to buff. The forehead, chin and throat are a deep rusty colour.

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Previous birds of the year

2010 - Lesser Flamingo
2009 - Cape Robin-chat
2008 - Spotted Eagle-Owl
2007 - African Penguin

For more information about the Bird of the Year initiative, please email