The swallow is a migratory bird much appreciated by gardeners, as its appearance signals the return of the good weather. This bird, with its swooping flight, is a protected species in France.
It is a particularly interesting bird, flying an average of 10,000 kms. as it returns to the warm African climate at the end of summer to hibernate.
With the onset of spring in Europe, the swallow returns to nest and reproduce. However, since the 1970’s the swallow population has been devastated by both the lack of suitable places to breed (barns and stables) and by the increasing use of pesticides, which have done untold damage to its food source.
The swallow, which belongs to the Passiforme order (the Hirundinidae family), includes many different species. They all have one point in common – they return to their place of birth to nest. There are five distinct species in France :
- Barn swallows : These are the most numerous in France. They have a long forked tail and a red breast. They nest mainly under rooftops from April to September.
- Common house martins : not as common as their barn cousins, they are recognized by their white rumps and their less forked tails. As their name suggests, they nest on windows.
- Sand martins : These swallows, extremely rare in France, bear no resemblance to the barn swallow. Their feathers are very dark all over their bodies. They mainly nest on coastal and mountain cliffs exposed to sun and sheltered from wind.
- Red-rumped swallows : These are also very rare in France. Only around a hundred have been spotted, mainly in Corsica. They are, however, closely related to the barn swallow. They have coloured feathers – dark blue on their backs, red on their necks, orange on their stomachs and chests. They have long, jagged tails. They mainly nest in ruins and in mountainous southern regions.