Swallow survey in Cape Town

White-throated Swallow nestling
White-throated Swallow nestling

The SABAP dataset

White-throated Swallows and Greater Striped Swallows are common intra-African migrants in South Africa. However, their reporting rates over the last 12 years show a decline nationally. In some areas there are increases, and decreases in other areas. 

SABAP2 reporting rate
SABAP2 reporting rate (blue line) for the White-throated Swallow from 2007-2019 (top) and monthly (bottom); yellow line is a Sequence index (see SABAP2).

The survey

 On 2 November 2019 Joel and I searched some 20 bridges for swallow nests from Pinelands to Heathfield in Cape Town, South Africa. 12 bridges contained White-throated Swallow nests, many of which were empty. 1 nest had 3 eggs, and 2 nests had chicks (4 and 2 chicks) that were ringed. Another nest had chicks but the nest was too high to reach.

White-throated Swallow
Joel returning nestling White-throated Swallows to nest


Five bridges had nests or remnants of Greater Striped Swallow nests, and adults were seen at several locations. Since their nests are enclosed, intact nests were not checked for eggs or chicks.

Greater Striped Swallow nest
Greater Striped Swallow nest, next to remnants of a previous nest

The summary

 Although the survey was limited in extent (sampled a few suburbs) and duration (1 morning), many more White-throated Swallow nests were found than Greater Striped Swallow nests. Many White-throated Swallow nest sites were found, as well as some eggs and chicks. Although many nests were empty, they probably successfully fledged chicks earlier in the season. The Greater Striped Swallow may choose buildings more often than bridges as nest sites, and/or may be less common in the Cape Town southern suburbs.  

There are at least 9 swallow species in Cape Town – read more about these here.

  If you would like to see swallows in Cape Town, or if you would like to ring swallows or other birds, contact Dieter at Birds4Africa !
Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.