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House Martin

Description


The House Martin spends much of its time on the wing collecting insect prey. Its diet is flying insects, especially flies and aphids in summer.

They tend to feed higher than Swallows, often in groups with Swifts, unlike the solitory Swallow. 

The bird's mud nest is usually sited below the eaves of buildings, and are summer migrants and spend their winters in Africa. See our House Martin nest box.

Although still numerous and widespread, recent moderate declines earn them a place on the Amber List. They return to the UK in April, often feeding over wetlands for a while before returning to their traditional nest sites, remaining here until September and October before migrating south.

Originally, nesting on cliffs they soon took to nesting on buildings, attaching their mud nest cup under eaves, each nest takes up to 10 days to build, and over 1000 beak sized pellets of mud  
 

Quick Facts


Number in Britain
700,000

Conservation Status UK
Amber

Status in UK
Migrant Breeder/passage visitor

Length
12 cm

Wingspan
28cm

Weight
19g

Habitat
Open country and towns

First Record
8th Century

Egg Size
19x13 mm

Egg Weight
1.8 g

Clutch Size
4-5 eggs

Incubation
13-19 days

Fledging
19-25 days

Number of broods
2 or 3

Age at First Breeding
1 year

Typical Lifespan
2 years

Maximum Recorded Age
7 years, 1 month

  • The diet of the House Martin is almost entirely flying insects, caught on the wing.
  • The distinctive white rump of the House Martin helps to recognise the bird from the swallow, which it is sometimes confused with.
  • It takes approximately 10 days for a pair of House Martins to construct their nest using at least 1,000 beak-sized mud pellets.
  • The House Martins are very social birds; nesting colonies can reach quite a few hundred birds.
  • House Sparrows have been known to oust House Martins and take over their nests.
  • The nest will be repaired and used again in following season.
  • House Martins are more than likely to be found in built-up areas, while Swallows like the countryside better.
  • It is uncommon for them to pair up together the next year, but will remain together for a single breeding season.
  • The name, House Martin, is only a few hundred years old.
  • It is often been observed the young from the first brood helping their parents to feed the next brood, which is a rare event in the bird world.

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