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2013-02-13
Spring comes alive with migrating birds.


The eighth edition of Spring Alive, a BirdLife International educational campaign that focuses on the observation and tracking of migratory birds, will be launched in February and continue until 21 June.

Spring Alive attracts participation from Europe, Central Asia and Africa and tracks the arrival of five well known and common spring migrating bird species: White Stork, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Common Cuckoo and Eurasian Bee-eater.

The participants follow spring as it arrives across the continent and record their observations online at www.springalive.net. BirdLife Partners across Europe and Central Asia from February on, and Africa from September on, will organise a series of events to welcome the arrival of spring and the bird migrations it brings with it. Birdwatchers, experts, children and families, teachers, everyone is welcome to enjoy the events and games, all mixing fun and education with activities such as field trips, species information and photo contests.

Last year the Birdlife Partner in Germany, Nabu, launched the innovative “bird reality-show”. For the first time anyone could follow the fortunes and everyday habits of two Swift families via live webcams. Every Spring Alive participant is also invited to write his own “Spring diary” online.

Caroline Jacobsson, Head of Communications and Marketing at BirdLife Europe says: “For most of the children participating in Spring Alive it is the first contact with nature and an opportunity to have fun by observing birds while learning more about them.” She continued ” “The observation of birds migrating between Europe and Africa provides a unique occasion to create an understanding that birds cross many borders during their journey”.

The Spring Alive 2012 edition was the most successful in the project’s eight year history with more than 173,140 registered bird observations. BirdLife Europe hopes that the 2013 edition will be even more successful, bringing in new countries and reaching a wider audience.

The project would not be possible without the support of The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund For Europe and Africa (MCFEA), Spring Alive’s main sponsor. MCFEA aims to encourage the appreciation and conservation of flora and fauna with an emphasis on endangered species. The campaign is also financially supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds [RSPB, BirdLife in the UK].

Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica -- is the most widespread species of swallow in the world. Adults migrate long distances to their wintering grounds. An abundant summer visitor to Southern Africa. Adults may live to10 years. Its preferred habitat is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, preferably with nearby water.

Description

The adult male has steel blue upperparts and a rufous forehead, chin and throat, which are separated from the off-white underparts by a broad dark blue breast band. The outer tail feathers are elongated; giving the distinctive deeply forked "swallow tail." There is a line of white spots across the outer end of the upper tail.

Call

Barn Swallows give a cheep call when threatened. A churee whistle will send adults diving at the threat. Both male and female Barn Swallows sing a “twitter-warble” song during courtship and egg-laying, with a long series of continuous warbling sounds followed by up to a dozen rapid, mechanical-sounding whirrs. The song can last 4–20 seconds and is often introduced and followed by a chirp.

Food

Mainly Flying insects. Flies of all types make up the majority of the Barn Swallow’s diet, along with beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and other flying insects.

Breeding

The barn swallow usually breeds between May and August depending upon the location. Both birds cooperate to build a cup-shaped nest, out of mud and grasses usually against a hard vertical surface, such as eaves of buildings or under bridges.  They often choose the same nest site year after year.  Females lay three to five eggs that they incubate for two to three weeks.  After hatching, the chicks will remain in the nest for another three to four weeks before fledging. Adults will rear two broods each year, depending on the weather and supply of insects. 

Conservation Status – Least Concern

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion. The barn swallow is an extremely abundant bird that in many places has greatly benefited from the human alteration of the landscape. The availability of nesting sites once limited the size of its population, but now that the species has almost completely converted to building its nests on artificial structures, it has become very common. This popular bird has also largely avoided persecution, although it was exploited for the hat-making trade in North America in the 1800s, and many people even choose to protect the species’ nests on their buildings. The barn swallow population does, however, fluctuate in size quite significantly, and although extreme weather patterns are most likely the cause of this, the intensification of agriculture across its range and a reduction of prey availability from pesticide use may have also caused some declines.

Birdwatching

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