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House Martin

A welcome summer visitor that nests on houses, usually ones with white walls!

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Although less common than it once was the house martin (Delichon urbicum) is still a familiar site around human settlements in summer as it has adopted our houses as its preferred nest site. Strangely, it tends to be houses with white walls that they choose. They like to build their nests up under the gutters and soffits and usually on houses rather than bungalows.

The house martin is, of course, one of our summer visitors arriving back here in April from its wintering grounds in Africa. It breeds here because of the abundant supply of insects we have in this country, before setting off back south again in September. They migrate south in large flocks and thousands can be seen over Duration in autumn. The numbers build up during the day as they reach open water and so stop to feed up before setting off at first light across the channel.  

Martins are often seen in the company of swallows and can be a bit difficult to tell apart but, in general, they feed at a higher level than swallows and that is a pretty good guide.



Common Name House Martin
Scientific Name Delichon urbicum
Species Group Birds Hirundines and Swifts
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Look for

Small black and white birds flying in groups at speed

Identification Notes
  • Nest on houses (often those painted white) so often seen near villages and farms
  • Darker in colour than the swallow and with a less forked tail
  • Generally feed at a higher level in the sky than swallows
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Hirundines and Swifts