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Swallows and martins

Sand martin perched at entrance to nest

Image: Ben Hall

Swallows and martins are mostly small, elegant, aerial species with long, tapered wings, forked tails (often with elongated outer feathers) and small bills but wide mouths, for catching insects in flight.

There are three regular species in the UK plus some rare visitors, and many species worldwide. They tend to fly lower and slower than swifts but different species exploit different levels of air space and different sizes of aerial insects. Unlike swifts, they perch frequently on wires and (less often) trees and may be seen on roofs, sometimes on the ground.

House martin

The house martin is a small bird with glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white under parts. It has a distinctive white rump with a forked tail and, on close inspection, white feathers covering its... More...

House martin

Sand martin

Sand martins are the smallest European hirundines (martins and swallows), with dark brown upper parts and dark under wings contrasting with otherwise pale under parts divided by a distinctive dark che... More...

Sand martin

Swallow

Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are wides... More...

Swallow