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International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day – October 23, 2022

We celebrate International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day on October 23. It is a day to witness the mass migration and admire the natural grace and beauty of swallows. Swallows are tiny, elegant birds with dark-blue backs and white underparts. They have pumpkin-colored rumps and a light patch on their forehead. Countless birds flock together and nest inside San Juan Capistrano on or around October 23. These birds spend their spring and summer in the church and return to Argentina for the winter. People travel long distances to admire the birds’ natural beauty and grace.

History of International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

Most of us have a fantasy of flying through the sky like Superman. But that is not likely to be possible. But birds can do that on an everyday basis. Most birds can dance with the winds and sing with the trees. However, we can admire the grace and beauty of these remarkable birds instead of fantasizing about being Superman. And October 23 is the best day for that as swallows will nest at San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California.

Swallows are a family of passerine birds found worldwide and occasionally found even in Antarctica. Swallows are also known as martins, saw-wings, or Hirundinidae. They evolved around 22 million years ago. But they did not become this widespread until the evolution of humans and the start of agriculture. They are excellent insect hunters. Many species visit agricultural lands and other human-altered landscapes, searching for food and nesting grounds.

There is an interesting legend about the San Juan Capistrano church in California and the swallows. An innkeeper destroyed the nests of swallows from the eaves of buildings as he thought of them as filthy and a nuisance. Father St. John O’Sullivan of the San Juan Capistrano happened upon this moment and invited the birds to the Mission. He provided sanctuary for the birds, and they started visiting the church every year from that year.

International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day timeline

22 Million Years Ago
The Origin of Swallows

Swallows start to appear during the early Miocene period.

1874
Father St. John O'Sullivan is Born

Father St. John O'Sullivan, an Irish Roman Catholic priest, is born.

1910 — 1933
The Legend

Father St. John O'Sullivan invites the swallows to the church after the innkeeper destroys their nests, as the legend goes.

1939
A Song for the Swallows

Songwriter Leon Rene writes the hit song, ‘When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.’

International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day FAQs

What is the story about swallows in San Juan Capistrano?

There is a popular story about swallows and San Juan Capistrano. An innkeeper destroyed the muddy nests of the swallows, and they took refuge in the San Juan Capistrano. They return every year, knowing they will eventually find a home within the church’s ruined walls.

What is a group of swallows called?

A group of swallows is called a flight or gulp.

Do swallows return to the same place every year?

Unlike most songbirds, swallows return to the same nest they built last year.

International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day Activities

  1. Watch the migrations

    Swallows migrate long distances. A flock of swallows soaring through the sky is a sight worth watching.

  2. Chart the route

    Try to learn about their hunting and migratory behavior from Argentina to California. Prepare a chart that illustrates the path that these birds take every year.

  3. Provide nesting grounds

    Swallows are comfortable nesting inside buildings. On your building eaves, provide suitable conditions to host swallow nests.

5 Facts You Should Know About Swallows

  1. The most widespread swallow

    The barn swallow is the world’s most widespread swallow.

  2. Swallows in the Arctic Circle

    Finland's swallows nest north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and Finland.

  3. From Europe to Africa

    European swallows mostly spend their winter in Africa.

  4. Swallow nests near cattle

    Swallows like to nest close to large domestic animals like cattle or horses.

  5. Swallows and humans

    Swallows were rare birds before we started agriculture and animal husbandry.

Why We Love International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

  1. They’re efficient pest killers

    Swallows are excellent insect hunters. They can catch them from the air and effectively reduce the insect population of a region. We love swallows as they help us save our grains and crops from being consumed by insects.

  2. A symbol of endurance and consistency

    Swallows travel thousands of miles to reach their migratory destination. Their endurance and consistency inspire us to work harder.

  3. A sight worth our time

    We love to watch these little birds fly together in perfect harmony. We also love that they reach the mission almost the same day every year.

International Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day dates

YearDateDay
2022October 23Sunday
2023October 23Monday
2024October 23Wednesday
2025October 23Thursday
2026October 23Friday

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