HOUSE MARTIN

Are SSSIs real or a hinderance to natural development?, Natural England are not keeping data sufficiently up to date for anyone to see for sure!!

HOME | BIOLOGY | BOOKS | GEOGRAPHY | HISTORY | INDEX | MONEY | SPORT

 

 

 

I was always fascinated by those quaint mud nests, which I usually found under the eaves of country houses. I loved the way that the birds swooped in and out at great speed.

 

 

A tame house martin, delichon urbica

 

 

The Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum), sometimes called the Northern House Martin or, particularly in Europe, just House Martin, is a migratory passerine bird of the swallow family which breeds in Europe, north Africa and temperate Asia; and winters in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia. It feeds on insects which are caught in flight, and it migrates to climates where flying insects are plentiful. It has a blue head and upperparts, white rump and pure white underparts, and is found in both open country and near human habitation. It is similar in appearance to the two other martin species of the Delichon genus, which are both endemic to eastern and southern Asia. It has two accepted subspecies.


Both the scientific and colloquial name of the bird are related to its use of man-made structures. It builds a closed cup nest from mud pellets under eaves or similar locations on buildings usually in colonies, but sometimes fouling below nests can be a problem.


It is hunted by the Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo), and like other birds is affected by internal parasites and external fleas and mites, but its large range and population mean that it is not threatened globally. Its proximity to man is generally accepted leading to some cultural and literary references

 

 

Lovely nesting shot of three house martins

 

Eastern Bluebird

 

 

TAXONOMY

The Common House Martin was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758 as Hirundo urbica,
but was placed in its current genus Delichon by Thomas Horsfield and Frederic Moore in 1854. Delichon is an anagram of the Ancient Greek term χελιδών (chelīdōn), meaning 'swallow', and the species name urbicum (urbica until 2004, due to a misunderstanding of Latin grammar) means 'of the town' in Latin.


The Delichon genus is a recent divergence from the Barn Swallow genus Hirundo, and its three members are similar in appearance with blue upperparts, a contrasting white-rump, and whitish underparts. In the past, the Common House Martin was sometimes considered to be conspecific with the Asian House Martin (D. dasypus), which breeds in the mountains of central and eastern Asia and winters in Southeast Asia, and it also closely resembles the Nepal House Martin (D. nipalense), a resident in the mountains of southern Asia. Although the three Delichon martins are similar in appearance, only D. urbicum has a pure white rump and underparts.


The Common House Martin has two geographical subspecies, the western nominate subspecies D. u. urbicum, and the eastern D. u. lagopodum, which was described by German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas in 1811. Other races, like meridionalis from around the Mediterranean have been described, but the claimed differences from the nominate race are clinal, and therefore probably invalid.

 

A house martin bird, flying wings thrusting downstroke

 

 

DESCRIPTION

The adult Common House Martin of the western nominate race is 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long, with a wing span of 2629 centimetres (10.211.4 in) and a weight averaging 18.3 grammes (0.65 oz). It is steel-blue above with a white rump, and white underparts, including the underwings; even its short legs have white downy feathering. It has brown eyes and a small black bill, and its toes and exposed parts of the legs are pink. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile bird is sooty black, and some of its wing coverts and quills have white tips and edgings. D. u. lagopodum differs from the nominate race in that its white rump extends much further onto the tail, and the fork of its tail is intermediate in depth between that of D. u. urbicum and that of the Asian House Martin.


The white rump and underparts of the Common House Martin, very noticeable in flight, prevent confusion with other widespread Palaeoarctic swallows such as the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) or Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica). In Africa, confusion with Grey-rumped Swallow (Pseudhirundo griseopyga) is possible, but that species has a grey rump, off-white underparts and long, deeply forked tail. The Common House Martin flies with a wing beat averaging 5.3 beats per second, which is faster than the wing beat of 4.4 beats per second for the Barn Swallow, but the flight speed of 11 ms−1 (36 fts−1) is typical for hirundines.


The Common House Martin is a noisy species, especially at its breeding colonies. The male's song, given throughout the year, is a soft twitter of melodious chirps. The contact call, also given on the wintering grounds, is a hard chirrrp, and the alarm is a shrill tseep.

 

 

Kelis, wearing bird feathers, by Martin House

 

 

DISTRIBUTION

 

The subspecies D. u. urbicum breeds across temperate Eurasia east to central Mongolia and the Yenisei River, and in Morocco, Tunisia and northern Algeria, and migrates on a broad front to winter in sub-Saharan Africa. D. u. lagopodum breeds eastwards of the Yenisei to Kolyma and south to northern Mongolia and northern China; it winters in southern China and Southeast Asia.


The preferred habitat of the Common House Martin is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, and preferably near water, although it is also found in mountains up to at least 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) altitude. It is much more urban than the Barn Swallow, and will nest even in city centres if the air is clean enough. It is more likely to be found near trees than other Eurasian swallows, since they provide insect food and also roosting sites. This species does not normally use the reed-bed roosts favoured by migrating Barn Swallows.


It uses similar open habitats on the wintering grounds, but the Common House Martin is less conspicuous than wintering Barn Swallows, tending to fly higher and be more nomadic. In the tropical parts of its wintering range, like East Africa and Thailand, it appears to be mainly found in the higher areas.


The Common House Martin is a migrant which moves on a broad-front (i.e. European birds are not funnelled through the short sea crossings used by large soaring birds, but cross the Mediterranean and Sahara). While migrating they feed in the air on insects, and they generally travel in daylight, although some birds may move at night. Migration brings its own hazards; in 1974, several hundred thousand birds of this species were found dead or dying in the Swiss Alps and surrounding areas, caught by heavy snowfall and low temperatures. Adult survival on autumn migration depends mainly on temperature, with precipitation another major factor, but for juveniles low temperatures during the breeding season are more critical It is anticipated that since extreme weather is predicted to become more frequent with climate change, future survival rates will depend more on adverse weather conditions than at present.


The Common House Martin returns to the breeding grounds a few days after the first Barn Swallows; like that species, particularly when the weather is poor, it seldom goes straight to the nesting sites, but hunts for food over large fresh water bodies. There are records of migrant House Martins staying to breed in Namibia and South Africa instead of returning north. As would be expected for a long distance migrant, it has occurred as a vagrant eastwards to Alaska and west to Newfoundland, Bermuda and the Azores.

 

 

House Martin swooping left

 

 

LITERATURE

 

This species lacks the wealth of literary references associated with its relative, the Barn Swallow, although it is possible that some of the older mentions for that bird might equally well refer to the House Martin. William Shakespeare was clearly describing the House Martin when Banquo brings the nests and birds to the attention of Duncan at Macbeth's castle, Inverness:


"This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve
By his loved mansionry that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here. No jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendant bed and procreant cradle;
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed
The air is delicate." (Macbeth, Act I, scene VI).

 

There are old legends, with no basis in fact, that House Martins would wall-up House Sparrows by closing the entrance of the mud nest with the intruder inside, or that they would gather en masse to kill a Sparrow.


The martlet, often believed to refer to the House Martin, or possibly a swallow, was a heraldic bird with short tufts of feathers in the place of legs. It was the cadency mark of the fourth son of a noble family, and features in many coats of arms, including the Plantagenets. The lack of feet signified its inability to land, which explained its link to a younger son, also landless. It also represented swiftness.

 

 

Painiting of a house marting chasing a dragonfly

 

 

BIRD INDEX:

 

Albatros

Bishop, Orange

Blue Bird

Canary

Chaffinch

Chicken
Cockatoo
Corella, Long-Billed

Cormorant
Crane, African Crowned
Crane
Crow

Cuckoo

Dodo
Dove
Duck

Eagle
Egret, Cattle
Emu

Falcon

Finch
Fishers Lovebird
Flamingo

Grebe
Goose, Egyptian

Grouse
Guinea Fowl, Helmeted
Hammerkop

Hawk
Hornbill, Wreathed
Hornbill, Red-Billed

Hottentot, Teal

House Martin
Ibis, Hadada

Ibis, Sacred
Kite, Black

Kingfisher

Kiwi
Kookaburra
Lapwing Plover

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Loon
Macaw

Mynah

Nightjar

Ostrich

Owl
Parrot, Amazon
Parrot

Partridge

Peacock

Pelican

Penguin

Petrel

Pheasant
Pigeon

Quail

Robin
Roller, Blue-Bellied

Seagull

Sparrow
Spoonbill African

Starling

Stork

Swan

Swift
Toucan

Turkey
Vulture, Griffon

Wader
Weaver, Taveta Golden

Woodcock

Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

A house martin landing on a wire

 

 

 

 

House Martin gathering nest material

 

 

It's sad to think that one day, the planet Earth may be gone.  This is despite our best efforts to save her. The good news is that provided we all work together, we can preserve the status quo on our beautiful blue world, for centuries to come.  Provided that is we heed the warnings nature is sending us, such as global warming and other pollutions.

 

 

 

 

OTHER ANIMALS:

 

AMPHIBIANS  

Such as frogs (class: Amphibia)

ANNELIDS  

As in Earthworms (phyla: Annelida)

ANTHROPOLOGY

Neanderthals, Homo Erectus (Extinct)

ARACHNIDS  

Spiders (class: Arachnida)

BIRDS  

Such as Eagles, Albatross (class: Aves)

CETACEANS 

such as Whales & Dolphins ( order:Cetacea)

CRUSTACEANS  

such as crabs (subphyla: Crustacea)

DINOSAURS

Tyranosaurus Rex, Brontosaurus (Extinct)

ECHINODERMS  

As in Starfish (phyla: Echinodermata)

FISH

Sharks, Tuna (group: Pisces)

HUMANS - MAN

Homo Sapiens  THE BRAIN

INSECTS

Ants, (subphyla: Uniramia class: Insecta)

LIFE ON EARTH

Which includes PLANTS non- animal life

MAMMALS

Warm blooded animals (class: Mammalia)

MARSUPIALS 

Such as Kangaroos (order: Marsupialia)

MOLLUSKS  

Such as octopus (phyla: Mollusca)

PLANTS

Trees -

PRIMATES  

Gorillas, Chimpanzees (order: Primates)

REPTILES

As in Crocodiles, Snakes (class: Reptilia)

RODENTS

such as Rats, Mice (order: Rodentia)

SIMPLE LIFE FORMS

As in Amoeba, plankton (phyla: protozoa)

 

 

 

 

Artwork by Martin House for the John Storm adventure novel series

 

A heartwarming adventure: Pirate whalers V Conservationists, 

with an environmental message.

For release as an e-book in 2013 with hopes for a film in 2015 TBA

(graphic design: Martin House)

 

 

 

This website is Copyright 1999 & 2013  Electrick Publications & Blueplanet Netdirect Productions. 

The bird logos and name Solar Navigator are trademarks. All rights reserved.  Max Energy Limited is an educational charity working hard for world peace

 

BLUEBIRD  |   BLUEFISH  BLUEPLANET BE3  |  FORMULA E  |  SOLARNAVIGATOR  | UTOPIA