Red-breasted Swallow

Cecropis semirufa

To my mind the most beautiful member of the family, the Red-breasted Swallow (aka Rufous-chested Swallow) is a summer visitor to South Africa, arriving here from equatorial Africa from August and staying until around March or April. While spending the summer months locally these beautiful birds can be seen in the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, inhabiting open grasslands and savanna habitats. They feed mainly on flying insects.

Red-breasted Swallows form monogamous pairs in the breeding season, which starts almost as soon as they arrive here in South Africa. Their nests are built of mud in animal burrows and other cavities in the ground – and even inside man-made structures such as culverts – and comprise a bowl-shaped nesting chamber with a long tunnel leading to it. Both partners work on the construction of the nest, which may take longer than a month! The female is solely responsible for the incubation of the clutch of up to 6 eggs over a 3 week period. Once hatched, both parents provide food for the chicks until they leave the nest 3-4 weeks later. The youngsters remain with their parents for about 2 weeks after fledging. Pairs usually produce a second clutch of eggs 2-4 weeks after the first brood leaves the parents.

The IUCN lists the Red-breasted Swallow as being of least concern, noting that their populations are increasing and their distribution expanding.


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