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Black (Common) Swifts (Apus apus) in Barnaul (Western Siberia, Altai Krai)

Common Swifts (Apus spp.) did not occur in Barnaul (53N, 83E) in earlier times. For example, in their research of the fauna of the birds of the city at the end of 1970s, the ornithologists, N.L. Irisovoj and T. P. Boshko, record the absence of these birds (Irisova, pers. comm.). Having always resided in the city, I can testify to this. Not only did Swifts not nest in Barnaul, they were not even recorded in flight over the city.

The first occurrence of Black or Common Swifts (Apus apus) in the city was at the end of the 1980s. At that time the first small colony was found on a recently constructed high-rise building, the Hotel Barnaul, in the area of the train station. In 1993 some Swifts began to appear in the area of a multi-storey housing estate on the intersection of Lenin Street and Northwest Street (Irisova, pers. comm.) and a small colony soon emerged. By the first half of the 1990sthe colony of Common Swifts in the area of the train station had increased to about 50 or more individuals, while maintaining their association with the Hotel Barnaul’s building. But soon Swifts began to use all suitable buildings in the same area, including low-level school buildings. The main condition for nesting appeared to be not the size of a building but the availability of niches and cracks for nesting in the upper part. Special monitoring of Apus apus was not undertaken.

At the beginning and, especially, in the first decade of the XXI century, the Common Swift became a regular nesting bird in Barnaul. Now special observations found more than ten nesting sites of the Common Swift in the city. For example, there is a colony on the building of the Physics Faculty of Altay State University along Merzlikina Street; on a student's hostel along Krupskaja Street; nesting Swiftshave been observed in a nine-floor residential building along the tram line to Dokutshaevo, where there has been a colony in existence for 3 - 4 years (more than 30 birds); also colonies at two schools (Nos. 108 and 113) along Guschin Street, at the crossroads with Kavalerijskaja Street, where some ten birds nested in 2010 and 2011.

Thus Common Swifts began to gather and nest not only in the city centre and in high-rise buildings, but also in the surburbs where they would even try school buildings of only three-floor height. Everywhere the nesting Common Swifts only used buildings with apertures narrow enough that they could not be used by pigeons, and at, or nearly at, floor level. There is a huge number of high-rise buildings where the top floor has the usual arrangement of air vents (40-50 cm height from the floor), but these are not occupied by Swifts because they are invariably used by pigeons.

A few Pacific Swifts (Apus pacificus) were recorded for the first time in Barnaul in 2003 above a high-rise building (“The Candle”) belonging to Altay State University (Irisova, pers. comm.). On 29th May 2009, a single Pacific Swift was recorded among a group of Apus apus in flight above the city. In June 2010 a Pacific Swift was observed at a nest. Probably, some of them nest together with Common Swift. Two colonies, with up to 5 pairs of birds, were detected on a building of the Altay State University building on Lenin Street, both colonies are at a level of 3-4 floors (Harms & Ebel, 2011). To date Pacific Swift is found rarely in Barnaul.

The first occurrence of Common Swift in Barnaul in the spring of 2009 was recorded on 16th May in the area of a multi-storey building in Solar Glade Street in the day time with a temperature of 17С (8 individuals/km2). In 2010 the first occurrence was on 13th May, when six birds were seen in flight in the valley of the Ob river under Mount Turina (12 individuals / km2), in cloudy weather with a temperature of 1С (the night before there had been snow with rain). In their flight path the Swifts (Apus apus) kept to the east (upstream) side of the river valley. It is interesting that Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) always arrive earlier than the Swifts (A. apus). For example, in the same year the Barn Swallows first appeared on 23rd April in the river valley. Thus, the gap in the arrival times of these two species who rely on aerial plankton - the Barn Swallow and the Common Swift - is of the order of 20 days. In 2011 the arrival of Common Swift was recorded on 15th May when ten birds were observed at a multi-storey building in the surburbs of the city (6 individuals/km2). It is at this time, from the middle of May, that the quantity of mosquitoes in the river valley and in the woods around Barnaul, increases. In 2012 the arrival of the Swifts was recorded on 14th May.

The Common Swifts have arrived by May but are not seen in all the city’s habitats. Most of them nest in the old colonies in the multi-storey buildings of the city centre, for example, the Hotel Barnaul - 20 individuals/km2 (18.05.2009), and in multi-storey building in the city’s surburbs - 10 individuals/km2 (25.05.2010). Sometimes during this period Swifts gather in the Barnaul pine forest belt at the city’s boundaries - 1 individual/km2 (24.05.2010.); as a rule they are seen above wide glades. Swifts also start to be observed in the floodplain of the Ob River. For example, under Mount Turina - 40 individuals/km2 (21.05.2010) - where they were feeding over submerged reeds in the floodplain in Lake Podgornoe; the Swifts only appeared in the river valley at 10 o'clock in the morning at the same time as the flying insects became more intensely active. With further increases in temperature the Swifts fly back and forth to the valley of the Ob River from their nests in the city. Also at this time Swifts can be observed at the ferry station on the River Ob at the mouth of the Barnaulka River - 12 individuals/km2 (24.05.2010), together with House Martins, which have a small colony in this area. At this time Swifts appear in parts of the city where they have not been observed previously. For example, in a hollow lake at the source of the River Pivovarka near the Clinic of Cardiology - 4 individuals/km2 (31.05.2011). During this same time period new colonies are formed: 3-4 pairs of Swifts at the School No. 111 near to the Regional Children's Hospital - 6 individuals/km2 (31.05.2011).

In June Swifts flock regularly above the highways of the city centre and the area around the train station, at Barnaul Hotel - 20 individuals/km2 (08 and 22.06.2009, 28.06.2010) and in multi-storey buildings in the surburbs of the city - 8 individuals/km2 (07.06.2009), 10 individuals/km2 (05.06.2010) and 20 individuals/km2 (23.06.2009 and 29.06.2010). In 2011 the number of nesting sites and massing of Swifts in areas with multi-storey buildings increased, in comparison with previous years - 30 individuals/km2 (13.06.2011); at the ferry station on the Ob River at the mouth of the Barnaulka River - 20 individuals/km2 (28.06.2010); in a valley of the River Ob under Mount Turina - 10 individuals/km2 (11.06.2010). Sometimes they gather in the area where the city’s waste grounds are located, for example, between the Shumakov quarter and the pine forest strips - 3 individuals/km2 (09 and 24.06.2009) but they are seldom seen in Anniversary Park - 0.3 individuals/km2 (21.06.2009). In the morning movement of Swifts through the city at a great height were seen from the direction of the valley of “Mount Turina“, the steep and natural boundary of River Ob on the other side of city. Swifts also flock regularly at the building of school No.113 and here again some pairs nest (2-3 years ago this colony did not exist).

In July Swifts are present in all habitats mentioned above but from the middle of this month, their number increases substantially. During this period there has been recorded above the city highways - 6 individuals/km2 (05.07.2009 and 07.07.2010), 12 individuals/km2 (19.07.2009); in the centre at the Hotel Barnaul - 20 individuals/km2 (05.07.2009 and 07.07.2010) and 40 individuals/km2 (19.07.2009); in multi-storey buildings in the surburbs - 20 individuals/km2 (04. and 18.07.2009) and 38 individuals/km2 (11.07.2010); at the ferry station on the river - 20 individuals/km2 (07.07.2010), 30 individuals/km2 (23.07.2009); in a valley of the River Ob under Mount Turina - 3 individuals/km2 (09.07.2010). By the time the young Swifts begin to depart from the middle to the end of July, the volume of midges and mosquitoes become decreases slightly less.

In August, Swifts were present above the city highways some 20 - 30 birds, ie., 12 individuals/km2 (04.08.2009); in the valley of the river Ob under Mount Turina - 0,6 individuals/km2 (05.08.2009); at the mouth of the Barnaulka River at the ferry station on 5th August 2010 no Swifts were detected. The last gathering of Swifts in the city was recorded on 09.08.2010 and the last sighting in the valley of the river Ob was on 2.09.2010 (Harms & Ebel, 2011). For comparison, on 24th August 2010 in the valley of the River Ob under “Mount Turina“ all three Hirundine species were observed: Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) - young birds (20 individuals/km2), Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) (80 individuals/km2), House Martins (Delichon urbica) (20 individuals/km2).

Harms, O. & Ebel, A. (2011): Materials on the fauna of birds of Barnaul in 2009 and 2010. Materials relating to the distribution of birds in the Urals and Western Siberia (Ekaterinburg) 16: 19-44 (in Russian)

APUSlife 2013, No. 4956
ISSN 1438-2261


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