Riparia riparia

[Barn Swallow] (pp.159–160)

Selected new records


Earliest and latest since 2006 (last year covered in full by The Birds of Lundy): Earliest 16 Feb (five), beating the previous earliest date – 11 Mar in both 2000 & 2007 – by over three weeks; Latest 16 Nov 2015 (one).


Breeding confirmed

Breeding was not reported until early Sep, when a pair had large young in a nest in the village, although this is likely to have been a second or third brood.


Notable spring-passage count

26 Apr – An estimated 5,000 passed through the island – the second-highest one-day total on record for spring migration (counts reached this figure on three dates in April and May 2004, while 6,000 were estimated on 26 April 2005). Other exceptional one-day estimates during 2008 spring passage included 3,000 on 16 & 27 April and 20 May.

Breeding confirmed

Nests were built in the gas store, the Church porch and the fire-engine shed, with fledged young around the village on 26 Jul. A nest with very small young, presumably a second brood, was in the fire-engine shed on 31 Aug, and four young fledged from the Church porch in the first week of Sep; also a probable second brood.


New record set for spring-passage maximum

22 Apr – A new record was set for both spring and autumn migrations when 15,000 were estimated to have passed through. (NB this figure was equalled on 1 May 2012).

Breeding confirmed

With nests in at least four different locations – the beach building, Church porch, gas store in lower Millcombe, and fire-engine shed – 2009 was the best year on record in terms of the number of breeding pairs, though the often wet and windy weather from Jul to Sep may have suppressed the number of young fledged successfully due to starvation and/or chilling. The nest in the fire-engine shed held two dead, but fully feathered chicks and two live chicks on 3 Sep. However, at least four young fledged from the gas store and were being fed in Millcombe on 8 Aug.

High autumn-passage counts

10 & 27 Sep – Counts of 5,000 on both dates remain (as of mid-July 2020) the highest autumn-passage day-totals since publication of The Birds of Lundy in 2007, though matched by an identical estimate on 25 Sep 2015.


Late date in autumn

15 Nov – One on this date was unusually late, though still some way off being the latest ever recorded (3 Dec 1978) and exceeded by a day in 2015 (see below).

Breeding confirmed

Active nests were found in the gas store in lower Millcombe and in farmyard buildings in the first week of Jun, with presumably a second (or even third) brood about to fledge from the gas store on 7 Sep.


Early date in spring

12 Mar – 20 on this date were the second earliest spring migrants on record (the earliest being on 11 Mar in both 2000 and 2007).

Breeding confirmed

9 Jul – A nest was located at the southern end of Government House (a new site) on 9 Jul (L. Jaggard).


Exceptional spring-passage count

1 May – A colossal 15,000 estimated (equalling the record set in Apr 2009), based on spot counts, averaging 100 birds per minute passing over St John’s Valley between 11:00 and 13:00 hrs, with movements continuing until 18:00 hrs (Colin McShane).

Breeding confirmed

During the period 29 May to 2 Jun, nests were located in the gas store in lower Millcombe, in the store shed at the southern end of Government House, and in the pigsty at Pig's Paradise, with birds also prospecting in the Church porch. An adult was sitting on a nest at the latter site 19-21 Jun, while nest-building in the gas store durin the same period suggested loss of the first nest. On 25 Aug, two active nests included a pair feeding two young in the Church porch and a pair in the gas store. Three chicks were ringed inthe gas store on 29 Aug.


Delayed spring passage

Numbers in Apr/May were quite low in comparison with recent years; presumably a reflection of the cold, late spring in 2013. The fact that as many as 417 were still moving north on the late date of 5 Jun strongly suggests that migration was significantly delayed.

Breeding confirmed

A pair was holding territory around Pig's Paradise on 2 Jun and a pair was feeding young in the gas store in lower Millcombe on 30 Aug and 12 Sep.


Breeding confirmed

During the period 7–12 Jun nesting pairs were found in the gas store in lower Millcombe and in the Casbah. Birds were also seen in the Church porch and Pig's Paradise pigsty, but there was no evidence of of active nests at either site at that time. A pair at the Casbah had young about a week old on 21 Aug; probably a second brood.


Late date in autumn

16 Nov – One flying over St Helen's Field was the latest since The Birds of Lundy was published in 2007, though more than two weeks short of the latest ever record on 3 Dec 1978.

Breeding confirmed

A pair nesting in the Church porch were collecting mud from Pig's Paradise on 12 Jun and the nest contained half-grown young on 16 Jul. A pair was prospecting inside the gas store in lower Millcombe in Jun and another pair was seen regularly around the village at the same time, but no further nests were discovered.

High autumn-passage counts

25 Sep – A count of 5,000 remains (as of mid-July 2020) the highest autumn-passage day-total since publication of The Birds of Lundy in 2007, matching by the identical estimates made on 10 & 27 Sep 2009.


Breeding attempts confirmed, but outcome unknown

A pair was nest building in the Church porch on 8 &10 Jun (outcome unknown) and there was an occupied nest in the Casbah at the end of Jul
(outcome also unknown).


Breeding confirmed

Pairs bred at the Timekeeper’s Hut (= Felix Gade memorial) where a nest with three or four young was found on 1 Aug (Peter Williams), and at the Tillage/Brick Field pig-sty, where a recently fledged juvenile was seen on 4 & 5 Jul (Mike Archer) and a nest built unusually low to the ground contained a second brood of at least three chicks on 6 Aug (Dean Jones).


Breeding confirmed

Pairs were feeding young chicks in the Church tower and in the shed at the southern end of Government House on 10 Jun (Dean Jones). Successful breeding was confirmed when four fledglings, from a nest in the pigsty, were perched on a fence in Brick Field on 2 Jul and a fourth active nest was found at Quarry Pond on 20 Jul (Dean Jones).


Exceptionally early spring passage

The first of the year were two over the Village during the late morning of 16 Feb, with another three elsewhere during the day, making this the earliest ever date for Swallow on Lundy.

The exceptionally early spring migration in 2019 coincided with unusually mild weather in Feb. As for Sand Martin, this contrasts markedly with 2018, when a cold, late spring (after the 'Beast from the East') meant that the first Swallow was logged on 15 Mar but counts were generally low until late Apr.

Notable spring-passge count

12 May – A  conservative estimate fo 5,000 was one of the higher day-totals of recent years.

Breeding confirmed

A total of four pairs attempted to breed, but only three managed to fledge chicks (Tillage/Brick Field pigsty, Quarry Pond and Church porch). The first fledglings were seen in the Church porch on 5 Jul, and the same pair of adults were incubating a second brood by 25 Jul, but this and another pair that attempted a second brood both seemed to fail at the early egg stage.



Ringing control: A Swallow ringed as a first-year bird on Lundy on 27 Sep 2009 (ring no. X984589) during a day of strong visible migration when an estimated 5,000 passing through the island, was controlled at Icklesham, East Sussex on 30 Sep 2009 (3 days, 374 km, E 95º).

Ringing control: A Swallow ringed as an adult bird on Lundy on 22 Apr 2009 (ring no. X226968) was controlled at Estanca Escoron, Ejea de Los Caballeros, Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain on 30 Sep 2011; (891 days; 1,049 km; SSE 166º). When controlled in Spain, this bird would have been on at least its fourth south-bound autumn migration.

Ringing control: A Swallow ringed as a first-year bird on Lundy on 04 Oct 2011 (ring no. L954436) was controlled at a roost site near St Saviour Hospital, Jersey, Channel Islands on 12 Oct 2011 (8 days, 287 km, SE 141º)

Ringing control: A Swallow ringed as a first-year bird on Lundy on 21 Sep 2012 (ring no. Y705778) was controlled at Forninhos, Odemira, Beja, Portugal on 17 Oct 2012 (26 days; 1,543 km; SSW 192º). Remarkably, given how many have been found in Spain, this was the first British-ringed Swallow to have been controlled in Portugal.

Ringing recovery: A Swallow ringed as a first-year bird on Lundy on 11 Oct 2009 (ring no. L026271) was found dead in the Oleh region of Nigeria, on 06 Mar 2013 (1,242 days; 5,188 km; S 169º). This bird was most likely in a spring staging area feeding up for what would have been its eighth trans-Saharan flight and its fourth breeding season in Europe.

Ringing control: A Swallow ringed as a first-year bird on 14 Sep 2017 (ring no. S218358) was controlled at Longis Nature Reserve, Alderney, Channel Islands, on 16 Sep 2017 (2 days; 240 km; SE 133˚). This movement is strikingly similar to the Oct 2011 control detailed above.


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