House Martin

Delichon urbica

12.5cm

Appearance

The House Martin has a forked tail, and the wings are shortish with pointed ends. The upperparts are bluish black, it is white underneath and the white rump stands out, particularly in flight. White feathers cover the legs and feet. Juvenile birds are duller and appear more brownish than adults.

Habitat

Inhabits towns and villages throughout the region, but is adverse to busier human areas. Prefers farmland, and occasionally nests on sea cliffs.

Character

When flying, it is more direct and flaps the wings more than other Martins too. Spends a lot of time in flight, rarely landing on the ground but more likely to find a high perch, and may sleep aerially too; most feeding occurs in flight. The House Martin is sociable, nesting in unstructured colonies, migrating and feeding in flocks. It is a sociable species, inclined to nest in loose colonies and feed and migrate in small flocks.

Food

Majority of food is flying insects such as aphids, gnats, flies, beetles and ants.

Breeding

Is a colonial nester. Female lays 4 or 5 eggs at the end of April or start of May, and both parents incubate for 14-16 days, and both continue to tend to hatchlings. Young are coaxed from the nest by parents and are fed after they fledge. Pairs usually raise two broods.

Population

Visits the region in summer and departs from August to October. Majority of birds winter in Africa. Approximately 510 000 pairs breed in the UK and between 20 000 and 100 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The House Martin is a fairly common sight in most towns, though they are harder to find in the north of the region. If possible, try and observe the interesting habit of these birds while they gather mud from drying puddles and carry it back to their nests.

Voice

Has a 'prrrit' call, most often heard during flight, and a melodious warble most commonly heard around breeding territory or from a perch.
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