Spotting a blue swallow in South Africa is no easy task. Regionally extinct in 90% of its historically known breeding sites, and with only about 35 pairs in the country, it's one of South Africa's rarest birds. That's why wildlife filmmaker Zack Vincent really hit the jackpot recently when he managed to film a blue swallow chick emerging from its egg.

Zincent's lucky sighting came while he was filming in the green hills of the country's KwaZulu-Natal province, covering the work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Ian Little and regional wildlife officials. The group spotted a pair of blue swallows foraging near a known sinkhole and went over to investigate. Blue swallows nest in sinkhole cavities, aardvark burrows and old mine shafts, so studying these critically endangered birds (very little is known about their breeding behaviour) often involves plunging into dark burrows on the hunt for new nests – it's a dirty job, but one that can be hugely rewarding ... as the group was about to find out. 

The sinkhole investigation paid off. After discovering a clutch of eggs, the team noticed some movement: one of the eggs was hatching. Despite a few technical glitches, the amazing moment was caught on camera, providing an image of hope for this hugely threatened species.

The majority of blue swallow nesting sites are located on private land that falls outside of formal protection. According to the EWT, "Declines in the global and South African blue swallow populations, and their rapidly disappearing grassland and wetland habitat, have primarily been as a result of large-scale commercial forestry expansion, expansion in crop agriculture, mining and disturbance of breeding birds by people."

For a species in dire need of some help, this footage may just provide the publicity boost the birds need (it's a long video, so you can skip ahead to 11:00 for the main event).

Source: Getaway Magazine

Top header image: Brooke Williams, Flickr