Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica disperse seeds of Rooikrans Acacia cyclops, an invasive alien plant in the Fynbos Biome


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Rooikrans Acacia cyclops is an invasive plant species in the coastal region of South Africa, especially the Fynbos Biome. It is endemic to southwestern Australia. Seeds are bird-dispersed, mostly by frugivores and granivores. We report that at one locality in South Africa, Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, normally regarded as obligate foragers of aerial arthropods, also consumed the seeds and associated arils of Rooikrans shrubs and trees. The seeds were voided and the arils digested. Three thousand Barn Swallows in the region where this was observed conceivably consumed and voided two million Rooikrans seeds during the 5-month non-breeding period. Barn Swallows are therefore dispersers of Rooikrans seeds. Many of the bird species known to consume Rooikrans seeds are territorial, so that seeds are not dispersed far beyond existing acacia stands. Barn Swallows cover large distances between feeding areas and roosts, and could therefore disperse seeds far from existing stands. This development adds urgency to the need to eradicate Rooikrans from the Fynbos Biome.