Tuesday, March 4

malling swallows

The malling swallows are back! It's that time of the year. 

I've always been fascinated with the migratory Barn Swallows' choice for roosting sites in the city. For several years now, even before I was a birder, I would notice that a major mall in the QC area (just watch the video and you'll know which one) plays host to thousands of Barn Swallows around the time of spring migration.  They would fly around the mall frontage, perching on lighted letters, logos, ledges, the roof or even the vertical wall face!

I remember a long time ago (more than 15 years ago!), even before this particular mall had its numerous expansions and renovations, I was with my sister on the third floor of the mall which looked out to the huge atrium. Flying all around us were hundreds of Barn Swallows! We wondered how they had gotten inside the mall and were worried about how they would find their way out again! Until today I sometimes wonder if they ever found an exit. 

There is a similar sight in the southern end of Metro Manila, where one can observe Barn Swallows roosting on electric cables in front of a mall. The electric cables are at eye level when you are travelling by car on the elevated highway, and it's a curious sight which has been noticed by many non-birders as well. 

The swallows are most active at these roosting areas at twilight and a few hours after. Are they attracted to the insects which are attracted to the lights? Do these structures act like huge roosting trees in the urban jungle? Do they just want to go people watching at the mall?

I saw these QC swallows a few days ago. As I was taking the video, I heard a mother and her son notice me and comment "Look, so many birds!" 

This is a much improved observation from another mother and son from exactly the same place three years ago (I was also taking a video, and Adri and WBCP-ers Arnel and Tin T. were there too) "Look, so many bats!" 

Here's a throwback video (those streaks are swallows!) from way back then:

Other swallows roosting from several other places in Luzon have been in the news the past month. Unfortunately, many people see these swallows as pooping machines, rather than the helpful, insect eating birds they are. Recently, the Barn Swallows of Batangas City were on the local news

Watching the swallows in Quezon City reminded me of what I was missing in Zamboanga. Too bad school activities have prevented me from participating in the 9th Philippine Birdfest held in Zamboanga City, it's the very first birdfest I have missed attending!  Downtown Zamboanga City is also home to thousands of migratory Barn Swallows. It's amazing that in the middle of the noise and chaos of busy streets, the swallows co-exist with city folk. 

A photo of the barn swallows in downtown
Zamboanga City, taken from our trip in 2012.

They were actually adopted as the offical "mascot" for the birdfest, with an equally apt theme: Pajaros: Bula sin Miedo, sin Lingasa.  This translates to "Birds: Fly Without Fear, Without Worries”, in the local Chavacano dialect.

The logo for the 9th birdfest drawn
and executed by talented WBCP-er Arnel T.

The malling swallows are just another great example of how wildlife can share urban areas with humans. Yes, even shopping malls. Mallrats? I'd rather run into mall-swallows!


  1. Jops and I just saw these swallows last night when we drove past the mall! I should make time to observe them when summer break starts =)

    1. wow, is your summer break near na?!? End of sem feels ten million years away!

  2. sayang, even if I see a thousand swallows it will only count as 1 specie fro BY2014. hahaha

    1. You should have a "Most number of brids seen" category! Haha.