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Late summer is the time when you're likely to see Swallows gathering in large numbers on telephone wires and power lines in readiness for their big migration.  It's the avian equivalent of a departure lounge at the airport.

Checkout the photo above you'll see some birds chattering to each other.  Others are preening and checking their feathers.  Some are nervously scratching while others are even kissing each other goodbye.  The only thing missing is the announcements every few minutes saying "Keep your luggage with you at all times".

It's Not a Holiday

Although we might envy these birds heading off to sunnier destinations, this is no winter holiday.  Swallows face a journey of several thousand miles to South Africa.  When such fragile creatures make a journey like this, crossing obstacles like the Sahara Desert, it makes one wonder why they bother coming back each year?  After all, there's plenty of food and nesting space in South Africa.

The answer is there are too many resident species already living there.  They are specially adapted for a year-round tropical existence.  In the summer, there's an abundance of insects.  Enough for the residents, and all the 'tourists'.  But if large numbers of northern birds decided to stay, the competition for food would become too great.

Mental Maps

The other great mystery is how these birds manage to find their way around the planet?  Some people think they follow the sun and the stars.  Others think they use the earths magnetic field.  One thing is certain, every migratory bird, from the moment it hatches, has within it the ability to handle the task very well.

The Ins and Outs

Of course bird migration is a two-way thing.  We'll miss the swallows during the winter months, but many other bird species will arrive here, such as; Redwings from Russia, Whooper Swans from Iceland, White-Fronted Geese from Greenland, Tufted Ducks from Scandinavia and many more.  If you want to amaze yourself, take a world map and checkout how many miles these migratory birds travel.  It's quite incredible.

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