Swallows need your help at home and away


The RSPB is trying to reverse the decline in Swallow numbers, since the conservation status of the species is now Amber, owing to their falling numbers
More about swallows
They have long tail feathers which means they are amazing fliers - it is thought they can cover up to 200 miles in a day.  Their wingspan is 32 to 35 cm. You'll often spot swallows  resting on roofs or telegraph wires or flying over houses.  They tend to build nests out of mud & straw in quiet outbuildings with dark ledges & nooks & crannies & to eat, they particularly enjoy large insects.
Swallows tend to spend the winters in southern Africa. Then they fly towards the UK, migrating by day and picking up food along the way, as they fly back to the UK for our summers which means you'll tend to see them between March & October.  Many don't make the journey across the Sahara, dying of starvation, exhaustion & because of storms.  They generally fly at about 17-22 miles an hour, although their top speed is a really impressive 35 mph!
Swallows are small birds with blue glossy backs, a sort of creamy-white underneath & red throats. And these little guys need all our help.
Swallows are amazing fliers
Swallows are protected by the 1981
Wildlife & Countryside Act
Swallows are in decline
The RSPB suggests that a number of factors may be involved in the decline of swallow numbers, something which has been going on since around 1970.  Swallows are returning to their breeding areas in poor condition, which means they are laying fewer eggs than before.  The ever increasing expanse of the Sahara may make it more difficult terrain to cross; changes in farming practices in Europe could mean fewer nesting places & reduced insect populations to feed from. 
Swallows are not taking kindly to the colder & later frosts in May, or the very hot summers, which mean that pools dry out and there are fewer insects around - many nestlings die from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Another contributing factor is illegal hunting. Many swallows use the island of Malta as a place to make a stop & rest - where unfortunately many are killed illegally by hunters. The RSPB fears that many hunters - who just don't care about the birds - will hunt year on year and that this practice will spread to other parts of Europe & affect other birds.  Find out more here 
How you can help swallows
As well as asking people to sign this petition, the RSPB is encouraging people to put nesting boxes in your homes and particularly asking house builders of new homes to put up swallow nests for the birds.  Swallows can enter buildings through tiny holes - if you plan to make a hole, it should be at least 50 mm high & 70mm wide under the eaves. Nesting places should also be out of hte reach of cats. The RSPB has more tips on helping swallows to nest here - and you can click on the pictures to the right & treat swallows to a nest at home
You can join the RSPB & help it continue its work to conserve & protect birds like the swallow.  Membership includes free entry to 100 nature reserves, a free joining gift, &  a free magazine four times a year, packed with articles & stunning photographs.  This is incredible value - it's £3 a month for an adult.  Gift memberships for nature lovers & memberships for children also available - click here for details