Distribution of the Blue Swallow in Uganda

The Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea is an intra-African migrant with breeding populations in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Uganda has been regarded as one of the major sites for the non-breeding population of the Blue Swallow. 

NatureUganda conducted surveys in 2002 and 2004 to establish the population distribution and habitat requirements for the Ugandan non-breeding Blue Swallow populations.


  1. To establish the distribution of the non-breeding Blue Swallow population in Uganda
  2. To get an estimate of the size of the non-breeding Blue swallows population in Uganda

Sites with historical records were surveyed. These included the North Western shores of Lake Victoria, Busia grasslands adjacent to Kenya grasslands and parts of Queen Elizabeth National Parks (QENP). The furthest North the Blue Swallow had been recorded was in Kidepo National Park where only one record of two individuals existed.


The first phase of this study on the species in Uganda indicated that the species mainly occurs in permanent wetlands and seasonally flooded grasslands in Nabugabo, Sango bay, Mabamba bay and Kidepo NP. Nabugabo, Sango bay and Mabamba bay have been recognised as strongholds because of the large numbers of Blue swallows recorded.  This study therefore demonstrated the importance of the L. Victoria basin as the most important non-breeding areas for the Blue Swallow population in Uganda. All these three sites are Important Bird Areas in Uganda but none of them is legally protected.  This renders then vulnerable to encroachment for agriculture, burning and overgrazing.

The second phase of this study stressed the importance of Uganda as a very important non-breeding habitat for the species as indicated by the 1112 individuals recorded in the three areas of Sango Bay, Mabamba and Nabugabo within the Lake Victoria basin. This means Uganda has 37% of the estimated population of 3000 individuals of the species (BirdLife International 2000, 2004). Of these three, Sango Bay is the most important site for the species because of the large number of individuals recorded, followed by Mabamba bay. This may be an indication of the proportion of available suitable habitat for the species. The rate of land degradation in Mabamba and Nabugabo is high as indicated by the constructions in the area and this poses a threat to the population of the species. On the other hand, Sango Bay is less developed as seen by the few constructions in the area and this provides a bigger suitable site than the other two sites.

There are a number of opportunities for the Blue Swallow population sites; Nabugabo, Sango Bay and Mabamba are now Ramsar sites. This brings hope to the protection and conservation of these sites and the species; Due to its scarcity, Blue Swallow is fascinating to birdwatchers, tourists and scientific researchers. Mabamba, Nabugabo and Sango Bay have become major tourist destinations because of the Blue Swallow; Training opportunities are being provided to young researchers through their contributions by participating in the Blue Swallow surveys in Uganda.

 Conclusions and recommendations

Results indicate that the number of individuals may be more than this, if all the probable sites were to be surveyed. However, this does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of Blue swallows in Uganda as this was the first intensive survey for the species.

More intensive surveys are needed to come up with a concrete figure for the non-breeding Blue Swallow population in Uganda. It is recommended that a follow up monitoring plan be drawn to keep this information up to date. Trends in the numbers of individuals of this species are vital for better protection of the species.