Six species of swallows breed in New Hampshire, and populations of five of these have been declining since the 1960s. These declines are part of a more widespread decline of “aerial insectivores” (birds that capture insects on the wing, including swifts, swallows, nighthawks, and flycatchers) across northeastern North America. Biologists are unsure why these species are declining, but possible explanations include pesticides (on both breeding and wintering grounds), habitat loss, and climate change.
With respect to swallows, although there are data on population trends, we lack current information on the statewide distribution of breeding colonies. Such data were last collected during the Breeding Bird Atlas in the early 1980s, and in the decades since we have seen many former swallow colonies disappear or shrink in size. The first step in effective conservation of these species is a better understanding of their status, and to this end NH Audubon, with funding from NH Fish and Game, is piloting the “Swallow Colony Registry” (Swallow CORE). Swallow CORE uses volunteers to collect data on the distribution and abundance of swallows in New Hampshire, focusing on the colonial species that are showing the steepest declines: Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Bank Swallow, and Purple Martin.
More detailed information on Swallow CORE, plus project materials, can be found on the Swallow CORE website: http://www.nhbirdrecords.org/bird-conservation/swallow-core.htm.
Project Leader: Becky Suomala
To contribute to this project, please visit our online donation form.