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Sand Martin

Sand Martin Sand Martin Both Sexes
Sand-brown upperparts. White below with brown breast band.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Riparia riparia
Length: 12-13 cm (4¾-5¼")
Wing Span: 26-29 cm (10½-11½")
Weight: 13-14 g (½ oz)
Breeding Pairs: 160 000
Present: Summer
Status: Amber

Description

Sand Martins, like House Martins and Swallows, are summer visitors from northern Africa but they are smaller than either of these other species of hirundine.

The upperparts are sand-brown and the underparts are white except for a brown breast band. The tail is forked but shorter than that of the Swallow. The bill and legs are black-brown.

Juveniles birds have pale fringes to their back feathers and the breast band is less distinct.

In flight, colours can be difficult to differentiate, in which case it is size, the lack of a white rump and the breast band that best tell it apart from Swallow and House Martin.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song
  Quicktime mp3

The song is a rasping, chattering twitter, similar to that of the Swallow and House Martin.

Feeding

As with other hirundines and Swifts the diet comprises insects, such as flies and spiders that it catches in flight.

Nesting

Sand Martins nest in colonies, burrowing into banks, quarries and cliffs, and usually near water. Both sexes construct the nest burrow and line the nest chamber with plant material and feathers.

The eggs are white, smooth and glossy, and about 18 mm by 13 mm. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the young.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-May to June 2 3-7 12-16 c. 19

Movements

Sand Martins are summer visitors and are among the earliest spring arrivals, often arriving in early March. They start their return journey to southern Africa for the winter in August.

Conservation

The severe drought conditions in its African wintering grounds in the 1900s have caused the Sand Martin population to decline, and creates medium concern for its conservation (Amber List).

My Garden

Sand Martins have not been seen in or over our garden.


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
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