Some years the first swallows arrive at the end of July and other years at the end of Augustus or beginning of September. Whenever they arrive on the island of Curacao, the first arrivals always mark the start of the fall migration! And every migration season brings its own exiting bird encounters.
Bird Watchers who want to visit the island and spot many North American species in transition while traveling to the South will have to visit the island in the months of August – September- October and November, all of which mark their own interesting visitors. Many migratory birds will only be on the island for a very short time span, ranging from a few days to just a few weeks. Other species will overwinter and can be seen throughout the winter months. Albeit it is always handy to take a good look at the checklists posted by local birders on the island on eBird.org.
The larger swarms of swallows visiting the island will usually reach a peak at the end of August with thousands of birds in key locations all around the island, starting in the eastern part of the island in August and ending at the western part about the middle of September. It is a birders dream to stand in between the off and on flying birds snapping insects in flight during dawn or dusk. The arrival of the swallow swarms also bring concerns, especially in the last 5 years. It is common to find exhausted birds when they start to arrive, sitting on the streets, lampposts, electricity cables and other suitable and unsuitable locations to regain their necessary energy levels. As such it is easy for them to fall victim to feral and non feral cats and dogs, herons, and traffic. Many will be hit by speeding cars.
In the last few years we have seen a concerning raise in numbers of swallow literally falling from the skies, falling on the ground, twitching a couple of times and simply dying on the spot. During the fall migrations season of 2019 we found hundreds of death swallow in several locations and were witness to at least 30 such happenings where birds were falling out of the sky.
The fall migration of 2020 was particularly scary, as the expected swarms of swallows never arrived on Curacao. We still have no answer of what happened to the migrating birds, but we do know mortality rates in groups of migratory birds from North America was very high, reported from several locations in Central America and North America as well as the Caribbean.
Now at the beginning of August 2021, the first swallows have been spotted on the island again. Time will tell if the migration numbers will go according to expectation or not. We would like to hear about you Caribbean experiences!
Author: MIchelle Pors-da Costa Gomez