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Where do swallows migrate to from South Africa?

By January 27, 2023September 4th, 2023Newsletter

Where do swallows migrate to from South Africa?

January 27, 2023


If you’re in the midst of packing and organising in preparation to emigrate to another country, spare a thought for the swallow who does this twice a year! Like South Africans, many types of swallows are found worldwide; in fact, there are over ninety different species. Now that’s what you call a real rainbow nation!

Like us, you’ve probably found yourself entranced by these birds, watching their loop-de-loop flight pattern against the backdrop of an African sunset. However, you may also have noticed that South African swallows tend to disappear in the winter. So where do they go when the weather gets a little chilly on our side of the world? 

Where do swallows come from?

If you’re heading off to the Antarctic or North pole, chances are you won’t see one of these sun-loving creatures. Instead, you’ll likely find them on the beach in boardshorts with a beer in hand; only kidding, but these birds definitely have Saffa roots!

According to some bird experts, which the FinGlobal team is not, swallows are thought to originate from Africa, where they evolved as hole nesters, which makes sense if you’ve ever seen a swallow nest made from packed mud, tucked into the crevices and cracks of a barn or building. 

Swallow migration

There are many types of swallows in South Africa, but a great variety also make their home in places like the United Kingdom, America, and Canada. However, no matter where they originate from, their love of warm weather and insatiable appetite for certain bugs and insects only available in the summer months is the reason for their perpetual emigration status! 

Unlike the average adventure-hungry Saffa, the swallow migrates out of necessity to ensure it can access the food source it requires to stay alive. After the United Kingdom summer months (June-August), the UK swallow makes its way across France, past Spain, through Morocco, and over the Sahara to the Cape Province of South Africa! There it enjoys an idyllic African summer until the onset of winter when it retraces its journey back to the UK. If you’re wondering how far do swallows migrate between the UK and South Africa, the answer is approximately 6 000 miles or 9 656  kilometers! Now that’s what you call a proper ‘great trek’!

Of course, different swallows based in other countries have their own migratory patterns and times. Just thought we’d pop that in there in case any ornithologists (bird experts) are reading this!

What do swallows eat?

A swallow’s diet is one of the main reasons for its nomadic lifestyle. They feast on aerial (flying) insects such as horseflies, bluebottles, and large flies, which are abundant in the warmer months. However, when their food source starts to dwindle, they are forced to follow the warm weather south to find the swallow-cuisine they need.

Do swallows fly at night?

Many assume that most birds, besides the owl, don’t fly at night. However, sometimes necessity calls for a little night time flying, especially when trying to escape the clutches of a cold winter. Many small birds, including the flycatcher, swift, and swallow, will choose to make an overnight trek to ensure they reach a warmer destination on time! However, their preferred time of travel is during daylight hours, covering nearly 320 kilometers per day!

Do swallows ever land?

If you have ever seen a huge flock of swallows cartwheeling across the sky, you will agree that it’s an amazing sight. They seem to have so much energy and speed but do swallows ever land? Yes, they do; how else would they build nests, breed, or rest? Furthermore, when migrating, they roost at night in large groups choosing reed beds or open barns to relax.

Interesting swallow myths & facts from around the world 

  • Swallows are called birds of freedom because they hate captivity and will only breed in the wild.
  • Ancient sailors used the swallow tattoo to indicate how far they had travelled. One swallow meant they travelled 5,000 miles across the ocean, while two showed they had gone 10,000 miles!
  • Egyptians used the swallow in romantic poetry as a symbol of new love. And chapter 86 of their ‘Book of the Dead ’ (creepy!) also gives the deceased instructions on how to transform into a swallow!
  • A swallow nest built in the eaves of a home is said to bring good luck, but removing it brings grief and sadness.
  • Until the 1960s, farmers in the North of England thought that killing a swallow would cause their cows to stop producing milk!


For many Saffas, the swallow symbolises summer and, most importantly, home. This small bird enjoys travelling so much; you could almost call it an honourary expat! Of course, you won’t find it discussing its emigration journey with FinGlobal! But at least you know that no matter where you emigrate to, you’re bound to have a kuier from these little guys!

Expert emigration advice for SA expats/swallows at FinGlobal!

If you’re looking for excellent emigration experts, FinGlobal is the team to trust. While their ornithology expertise might be a little questionable, when it comes to emigration, the FinGlobal team knows their stuff!

Professional, friendly, accredited, and experienced are well-known descriptives associated with the FinGlobal brand. If you are looking for top-quality professional advice, the team provides a broad range of services, from inheritance and financial emigration advice to taxes and retirement annuities, not to mention pensions and forex! Contact FinGlobal today and find out how we can help you get your emigration journey started!  

To discuss your unique needs with our team, simply get in touch with us. Give us a call on +27 28 312 2764 or send us an email at, and we will assist you promptly.