Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 245–253 | Cite as

Searching for potential wintering and migration areas of a Danish Barn Swallow population in South Africa by correlating NDVI with survival estimates

  • Tibor SzépEmail author
  • Anders Pape Møller
  • Steven Piper
  • Rick Nuttall
  • Zoltán D. Szabó
  • Péter L. Pap


On the basis of correlation analyses between annual Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values in Africa and the annual survival rate estimated for a breeding population of barn swallows Hirundo rustica from Denmark, we identified potential wintering and migration areas in South Africa during December–February and March–May, when barn swallows commonly occur in South Africa. During December–February we identified potential wintering areas only in the western part of South Africa, in the Karoo. Potential areas in the central and eastern parts of the country were only identified during March–May. NDVI values in the Karoo during March–May explained most of the variance in annual adult survival rate of the population. The high ratio of European ringed barn swallows among controlled individuals in the Karoo was similar to the ratio that would be expected based on the number of ringed barn swallows and the population sizes of barn swallows in north-western European breeding populations. The level of this ratio in the Karoo was higher than in any other locality in the central and eastern parts of South Africa and Botswana, indicating that ringed birds from the eastern flyway are absent to a much smaller extent than ringed birds from the western flyway. This approach shows that the NDVI and survival method can focus ringing efforts to regions and areas that are likely to harbour specific breeding populations, thereby helping to identify potential wintering and migration areas for breeding populations of migratory birds.


Normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) Ringing South Africa Swallow Survival Wintering areas 



We are grateful for the very valuable help that Andy Piper and Malcolm Gemmell provided in the field. We thank Herman and Zephné Bernitz and Dawie de Swardt for giving us the opportunity to work with their teams in barn swallow ringing, Ricardas Patapavicius (Lithuania), Kaarel Kaisel (Estonia) and Dr. Konstantin Litvin (Russia) for providing information on the number of ringed barn swallows in their countries and the NASA GIMMS group for the opportunity to use the NDVI data. We express our gratitude to the EURING databank for providing recovery and recapture data to A.P. Møller. The study was supported by the Hungarian and South African intergovernmental projects (DAK 13-01) and OTKA T42879.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tibor Szép
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anders Pape Møller
    • 2
  • Steven Piper
    • 3
  • Rick Nuttall
    • 4
  • Zoltán D. Szabó
    • 5
  • Péter L. Pap
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesCollege of NyíregyházaNyíregyházaHungary
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Parasitologie Evolutive, CNRS UMR 7103Université Pierre et Marie CurieParis Cedex 5France
  3. 3.School of Biological and Conservation SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa
  4. 4.National MuseumBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  5. 5.Department of Taxonomy and EcologyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityCluj NapocaRomania

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