Unique Footage of a Critically Endangered Blue Swallow Hatching

Every now and then we are afforded the chance to witness something truly amazing in nature. Zach Vincent and his colleagues came across such a chance in 2014, while filming a documentary on Blue Swallows for South African wildlife series, 50/50. Zach was searching for nests with local wildlife authorities in KZN. They came across an aardvark burrow with a nest and amazingly found a chick mid way through hatching!


Blue Swallows are distributed patchily in the grasslands of South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. They are intra-African migrants, breeding in Southern Africa and wintering in East Africa. Globally they are considered Vulnerable but in South Africa they are Critically Endangered. There are less than 40 breeding pairs left in South Africa. They breed in aardvark burrows and sinkholes in the grasslands of KZN and Mpumalanga, habitats which are being rapidly transformed for timber and agriculture.



Birdlife South African and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are working actively to conserve the remnants of breeding habitat in South Africa.  They have a program called the Blue Swallow Stewardship Program which encourage private landowners to conserve Blue Swallow habitat on their land. With these efforts we can hope that the Blue Swallows keep returning to South Africa to breed.

This unique footage of a Blue Swallow hatching shows a new generation of swallows entering into an uncertain world. We asked Zach what impact he hopes this footage to have and he says:

“It’s hope. It’s new life despite the odds, which are so great for tiny creatures in our world. The tiny shell helmet is a metaphor for the war the little bird would be facing its entire existence just to be able to return one day, find a mate and reproduce. I’d like the clip to spread some joy and hope! There are so many people trying their best to save the animals some would give up on.  I would like people to gain some interest into the Blue Swallow and other critically endangered yet, not big and sexy, animals.”

Zach is a film maker and producer, living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and completed his Masters degree at the University of Cape Town. His parents were in the wildlife film-making industry and Zach has followed in their footsteps, filming and producing in South Africa before moving to LA in 2014 to work on the wildlife series Ocean Mysteries.

Edited by Christie Craig