As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Hard to 'swallow': The mysterious disappearance of Canada's aerial insect eaters

MARCH 25, 2016

Forty years ago, swallows were a common sight in the summer, darting between the beams of old barns or swooping low over the waters of a creek. These swift aerial acrobats seemed to be everywhere -- perched on telephone lines by the dozen awaiting the fall migration, or whirling and diving around old wooden bridges in pursuit of airborne insects.

Now, these birds have seemingly disappeared from midair, entirely abandoning large swathes of their former Canadian range. Some, like the bank swallow, have seen their numbers plummet by 98 per cent since 1970. They've become the centre of one of Canada's greatest biological mysteries, and scientists are scrambling to discover why.

The swallows' disappearance is part of a larger trend affecting birds known as aerial insectivores, which spend much of their lives on the wing in a constant search for airborne insects to dine on. This group, which includes chimney swifts, purple martins, and whippoorwills, has plunged by 70 per cent in population in Canada, according to a 2012 report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Many birds in this category are now listed as threatened in Canada.

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