After a drastic change in weather last week, birds were found dead across the country, highlighting the ecological cascade climate change will bring.
After travelling south for their annual migration, European bee-eaters and swallows were met by extreme weather conditions – cold temperatures, strong winds and heavy rain – when they arrived in South Africa last week.
Meteorologist Annette Botha, from Vox Weather, told Daily Maverick that while a swing in temperature at this time of year (spring, the transitional season) is normal, this extreme swing – going from heatwaves earlier in the week to record-breaking cold weather (the lowest maximum temperature, 8.1°C in Zuurbekom, broke the record set in 1965) – is very rare for this time of year, although not unprecedented.
“This steep drop, especially for that time of the year, is something that I’ve never seen before as a meteorologist,” said Botha.
“The result was devastating, with reports pouring in of numerous European bee-eaters and swallows found lifeless throughout the country,” reported BirdLife, first flagging reports on social media of citizens posting between two and 60 European bee-eaters and swallows found lifeless throughout the country – in the Highveld area in Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Eswatini and as far west as Sodwana Bay and as far south as the South Coast of Durban.
In Johannesburg, 33 bee-eaters…