The Winter Migration of Swallows & Their Journey to Africa
Did you know that swallows are seen as a symbol of hope? These beautiful birds are getting ready to leave for their winter migration to Africa – and, as the inspiration behind our name, we thought it would be fitting to share some facts about the migration journey of these incredible little birds…
Why do Swallows Travel to the UK?
Like many other summer visitors in Europe, swallows fly north to take advantage of the longer daylight hours, abundant food sources, and lack of competition from other creatures. In the UK, there are only two other related species to the swallow: house and sand martins.
When do Swallows Arrive in the UK?
Swallows are summer visitors to the UK. They arrive here from Africa in April or May and begin breeding in early June. By July, the first fledglings have usually left the nest, with the parents then raising a second, or even third, brood.
Why do Swallows Migrate?
Swallows exclusively feed on flying insects, such as horseflies and bluebottle flies. As the temperatures begin to drop here in the UK during the autumn season, the trees lose their leaves and many of these insects go into hibernation, and so the swallows’ food source begins to wear thin. Faced with the prospect of little or no food, swallows head south for the winter, where food will always be available.
When do Swallows Migrate?
By early September, most swallows are getting ready to migrate. They fly around restlessly and often flock to telegraph wires – like they do here at Swallowfields! Most of the swallows embark upon their migration journey during September, but a few may wait around until October.
Where do Swallows Migrate to?
Swallows from the UK migrate to South Africa for the winter. They travel down through west France and east Spain into Morocco before crossing the Sahara Desert and Congo rainforest. Finally, they reach their destination of South Africa and Namibia. The overall journey takes around 6 weeks.
Feeding & Flying Patterns of Migrating Swallows
Swallows fly during daylight hours. They fly at low altitudes and cover around 200 miles daily, at an average speed of 17-22 miles per hour. They navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, light, and visual landmarks. At night, they rest in large flocks within reed beds. As swallows exclusively feed on flying insects, they don’t need to put on weight before leaving and can simply eat along the way. Despite building up fat reserves before crossing huge expanses such as the Sahara Desert, many swallows still die during these crossings – either from starvation, exhaustion, or extreme weather. If they do survive, swallows can live for up to 16 years!
The Swallows at our Glampsite
Swallows usually arrive here during April each year, although they joined us by the end of March this year! We see them swooping around our glampsite, wildflower meadow, nature hideout, and home throughout the summer season before they gather on our telephone wire in September and prepare for their journey to the south. Our guests often comment on how beautiful these birds are, with many having never seen swallows! Goodbye for another year – we’ll see you next spring!
Amazing Autumn Breaks in the Magical Malvern Hills
We now only have one date remaining at Swallowfields before we close for the 2022 season at the end of October: Monday 10th – Friday 14th October in Meadowsweet.
Click here to book your amazing autumn break in the Malvern Hills today!