Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 159, Issue 4, pp 885–891 | Cite as

Loop migration, induced by seasonally different flyway use, in Northern European Barn Swallows

  • Martins Briedis
  • Petras Kurlavičius
  • Renata Mackevičienė
  • Rasa Vaišvilienė
  • Steffen Hahn
Original Article


Seasonal variation in migratory routes seems to be a common trait among many Afro-Palearctic migrants, but there are only few examples of species or populations which shift between entirely different flyways in autumn and spring. To identify non-breeding regions and seasonal differences in migration strategies we tracked Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) from a Baltic breeding population by light-level geolocators. Using novel analytical tools, we provide the first full annual tracks for European swallows. The main non-breeding residency sites of the tracked individuals were located in Southern Africa and all birds followed a distinct counterclockwise loop migration pattern shifting from the central Afro-Palearctic flyway in autumn to the eastern Afro-Palearctic flyway in spring. Despite the elongated detour through the Arabian Peninsula and the Caucasus Mountains, spring migration was faster than autumn migration in all of the tracked males and one out of two females, implying favorable conditions en route that allow for more efficient and faster traveling.


Annual cycle Geolocator Long-distance migration Loop migration 


Schleifenzug nordeuropäischer Rauchschwalben, hervorgerufen durch jahreszeitlich unterschiedliche Zugrouten

Saisonal unterschiedliche Migrationsrouten scheinen bei vielen afro-paläarktischen Zugvögeln aufzutreten. Es gibt jedoch nur wenige Beispiele, bei denen eine Art oder eine Population völlig verschiedene Flugrouten im Herbst und im Frühjahr nutzt. Wir untersuchten baltische Rauchschwalben (Hirundo rustica) mittels Geolokatoren, um ihre Überwinterungsgebiete und saisonale Zugstrategien zu identifizieren. Die Hauptüberwinterungsorte der untersuchten Schwalben lagen im südlichen Afrika. Alle Vögel zeigten ein gegen den Uhrzeigersinn gerichtetes Zugmuster mit einer zentralen paläarktisch-afrikanischen Zugroute im Herbst und einer östlichen afro-paläarktischen Route im darauffolgenden Frühjahr. Der Frühjahrszug war trotz des langgezogenen Umwegs über die Arabische Halbinsel und den Kaukasus bei allen untersuchten Männchen und bei einem der beiden Weibchen schneller als der Herbstzug. Dies deutet auf sehr günstige Umweltbedingungen hin, die einen effizienteren und schnelleren Zugablauf ermöglichten.



We thank K. Dhanjal-Adams and S. Lisovski for their help with data analyses and F. Liechti and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We are grateful to farm owners M. and V. Simanavičius, S. and E. Malijevskij, V. Mackevičius, and field assistants M. Mackevičius, I. Miškinytė, T. Simanavičius, and R. Vanagas; and the Swiss Federal Office for Environment contributed financial support for the development of the data loggers (UTF-Nr. 254, 332, 363, 400). The study complies with the current laws of Lithuania.

Supplementary material

10336_2018_1560_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (911 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (MP4 911 kb) Online Resource 1. Video illustration of full annual migration tracks of the Baltic Barn Swallows
10336_2018_1560_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (629 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 628 kb)


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bird MigrationSwiss Ornithological InstituteSempachSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Biology and ChemistryLithuanian University of Educational SciencesVilniusLithuania
  3. 3.Lithuanian Ornithological SocietyVilniusLithuania

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