Current conservation status of the Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea Sundevall 1850 in Africa

Published in: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Volume 86, issue 3, 2015 , pages: 195–211
DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2015.1047808
Author(s): Steven W EvansSARCHI Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change, School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, South Africa, Ara MonadjemDepartment of Biological Sciences, South Africa, Lizanne RoxburghPercy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, South Africa, Andrew E McKechniePercy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, Department of Zoology and Entomology, South Africa, Ellizabeth M BakerTanzanian Bird Atlas Project, United Republic of Tanzania, Robert B KizunguOrganisation of Biodiversity Information and Conservation in Congo Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ian T LittleEndangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa, Fadzai MatsvimboBirdLife Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, Ronald K MulwaNational Museums of Kenya and Nature Kenya, Kenya, Daniel MwizabiZambian Wildlife Authority, Zambia, Dianah NalwangaNature Uganda, Uganda, Kariuki Ndang'ang'aBirdLife International, Africa Partnership Secretariat, Kenya, Leigh CombrinkEndangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa


The global Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea was classified as Vulnerable in 2010 on account of its small and rapidly declining population estimated at less than 1 500 pairs. We undertook this study to gain a better understanding of the current status and threats facing this migratory species. Three previously unknown areas that might be part of the species' non-breeding range were identified in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Within its breeding range we identified three previously unknown areas of potentially suitable habitat, one in Tanzania and two in Malawi, which require further exploration. Population viability assessment predicted that the Blue Swallow population will decline by 8% in 10 years. The overall probability of extinction of the species in the wild is 3%. Minimum viable population size analysis suggests that a goal for the long-term conservation of the Blue Swallow should be to mitigate current threats that are driving declines such that the population increases to a minimum of 3 600 individuals. This should consist of at least 900 individuals in each of the four clusters identified, along with a minimum of 500 individuals in at least one of the meta-populations per cluster. The four clusters are located in (1) the southeasten Democratic Republic of the Congo, (2) highlands of southern Tanzania and northern Malawi, (3) eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and (4) South Africa and Swaziland. The current proportions of the Blue Swallow population in strictly protected and unprotected areas on their breeding grounds are 53% and 47%, respectively, whereas on their non-breeding grounds the corresponding percentages are 25% and 75%, respectively. Our reassessment of the Blue Swallow's risk of extinction indicates that it continues to qualify as Vulnerable according to the IUCN/SSC criteria C2a(i).

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