It’s spring, and the weather is starting to warm up, and the South American cliff swallows came back to Chabot College to partake in the beautiful Northern Californian warmth. The small bird weighs in at just under one ounce with a wingspan of one foot making an incredible 14,000-mile trip every year from South America to breed right here on our campus.
Cliff swallows spend the winter months in South America. In early spring they begin a northward overland migration through Central America and Mexico. Arrival dates can vary significantly because of weather conditions. Usually, by early March the first migrants appear in Southern California. Two to three weeks later, they arrive in Northern California.
The swallows make this journey during the day and catch flying insects en route. It’s important to note that the swallows will not penetrate regions unless flying insects are readily available for food. This typically occurs after a few days of warm weather, particularly 70 degrees or warmer.
“Animals have these internals clocks that tell them when it’s time for them to move. We’ve got the weather conducive to what they need to breed and survive,” stated first-year Geography instructor Rachel Cunningham.
Some people find the bird droppings to be a blight around properties and put up nets to try to prevent them from building their nest. Unfortunately for the birds, they get stuck in the netting and die. What people don’t know is that the birds try to return each year to the same house they built a year ago, but if the house is destroyed it makes life difficult for the birds because they have to find a new area to build the nest.
Francisco Zermeno, Spanish instructor of forty-one years said, “They are just precious, and we need to protect them. People don’t understand how to cohabitate with the swallows because of the dislike of the bird droppings, but the swallows’ life deserves to be protected too. I created the Return of the Swallows Festival to create awareness about the birds and how we can share this earth together. Unfortunately, the Festival lost steam, and we haven’t had one since 2016, but I plan on creating a virtual festival that people can look at any time so that the awareness of the swallow stays current.”
All swallows are classified under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 as migratory insectivorous birds and are protected by state and federal regulations. It is illegal for any person to take, possess, transport, sell or purchase them or their parts; such as feathers, nest, or eggs without a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, certain activities affecting swallows are subject to legal restrictions.
Officer of nine years at Chabot College Rochelle Duran stated, “I haven’t seen or heard of the swallows being a problem around campus they don’t present any security threats.”
So if you happen to notice the birds around campus take the time to enjoy their majestic beauty because if you wait too long, you might have to wait until next year to see the Chabot College Cliff Swallows return.