The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society has called for protection of a recently discovered site in Nigeria where millions of migratory swallows (Hirundo rustica) gather to roost each night.

Wildlife Conservation Society scientists say the site is only one of two known roosts in Cross River State, a coastal region in southeastern Nigeria. The site is approximately two kilometers outside of Cross River National Park. Preliminary surveys by WCS indicate that the site may attract millions of swallows and be of international significance.

©U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Barn swallows like this one are threatened by increased farming near a newly discovered roosting site in Nigeria.

The roost appears to be under threat of destruction from advancing farms and may require conservation measures to survive, according to WCS, which has already contacted park officials to see if the roost can be formally protected.

"The fact that swallows congregate in large numbers in the winter makes them vulnerable to hunting and could have a significant impact on numbers if protection is not given," said Andrew Dunn, of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Nigeria Program. Swallows that winter in Africa migrate each spring to areas in Europe and Asia. While they are not endangered, their numbers are declining.

The other swallow roost in Cross River State, at a site known as Boje, is considered one of the largest swallow roosts in Africa. However, it has suffered in recent years from hunting by local people, who capture the swallows for food. Still, it remains an important destination for tourists who come to see the spectacle of millions of birds gathering in a relatively small area each night.

Adapted from materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society, via Newswise.