Common House Martin
Delichon urbicum - Hirondelle de fenêtre
- Size: 14 cm
- Wingspan: 26 à 29 cm.
- Weight: 15 à 21 g
The Common House Martin is a small swallow belonging to the Delichon genus, which is notably different from the Hirundo genus that the Barn Swallow belongs to. As these two species commonly co-habit in most of their ranges, we can compare them in some cases. The Common House Martin is smaller and bi-colored. Seen from above, it appears black with a white rump that is easily visible. In bright light, the adult shows blue reflections, similar to the Barn Swallow. Its wings and tail are a blackish brown without any reflections. Its entire underside is white, including the underwing coverts, with the black/white boundary just below the dark eye. The tail is clearly forked but with no streamers. The very small legs are feathered in white. The juvenile is dimmer and browner with much less blue reflections. It may be confused with the Sand Martin from afar if the white rump is not seen. There is a decrease in size of the birds as one moves from north to south. Three subspecies are currently described, with the 'urbicum' ssptype covering the largest part of Europe. They differ only in some small details of plumage and mensuration. Thus, the birds of the eastern 'lagopodum' subspecies have a slightly broader white rump.
Subspecific information 2 subspecies
- Delichon urbicum urbicum (w, c and n Europe to w Siberia)
- Delichon urbicum meridionale (n Africa and s Europe to sc Asia)
- Hirondelle de fenêtre,
- Avión común occidental,
- belorítka obyčajná,
- jiřička obecná,
- oreneta cuablanca comuna,
- oknówka (zwyczajna),
- mājas čurkste,
- mestna lastovka,
Voice song and cries
The usual call is a low-pitched, rolled prrri that is very distinctive. The bird isn't stingy with it. The alarm call is a drawn-out tsiu that is often repeated. The song, emitted near the nest, is a prolonged babble that is reminiscent of that of the Common House Martin but less loud and without the rough syllables.
The Common House Martin is a cliff-dwelling species, historically nesting beneath overhanging rocks from cliffs.
Behaviour character trait
The Common House Martin is a gregarious and social species, nesting often in populous colonies. The social character can be judged by the proximity of the nests which are often contiguous in a colony and can even overlap, and also by the gathering of individuals in the nests for the night. It has been noted that more than ten adult-sized swifts, the number of 13 has been cited, can gather at night in one single nest. On the flipside, in autumn 1974, prolonged bad weather caused the death of thousands of swifts crowded in the nests, the dead ones at the entrance blocking the others from escaping.
The flight of the Common House Martin is different from that of other swallows. The bird's silhouette and its way of flying resemble more a miniature Black Swift.
The Common House Martin, like the Barn Swallow and all other Swallows, is a strict insectivore. We already said before what sets it apart from the Barn Swallow. The insects it captures are small flying insects. 3 taxons get the most of the captures, with variations depending on the country. Those are Diptera, Hemiptera and Homoptera, but the list of taxons affected to a lesser extent is long.
The Common House Martin is a cave-dweller and builds its own nesting cavity. This nest, which is shaped like a quarter sphere or half hemisphere, is made of dried mud. It is always placed immediately under a ledge, whether it be a rocky stratum in natural conditions, a roof overhang, a balcony, a window sill, or, as recently observed, a lamp post. The condition is that the nest has an upper protection. Access is made through an aperture adapted to the size of the bird and located in the upper part. Its narrow size makes it easier to defend the home and the purpose is to prevent other birds from entering.
The Common House Martin is an Eurasian species whose reproduction range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a wide band from Mediterranean climate zones in the south to sub-arctic areas in the north. It avoids arctic and sub-tropical areas on both sides. The southern limit of its range passes through Maghreb, Iran and Mongolia. Three subspecies share this vast area. The urbicun subspecies occupies Europe, medium and northern Europe, and western Siberia; meridionale is found in Maghreb, southern Europe, in Asia Minor, in Iran and in southern Central Asia; finally, lagopodun inhabits Mongolia, northeastern China and central and eastern Siberia. The wintering area is entirely disjointed. The first two types of subspecies mainly winter in sub-Saharan Africa to the south of the continent and a little south of the Red Sea and around the Persian Gulf, the most eastern birds reaching southwest India. Those of the lagopodun subspecies winter in Southeast Asia.
Threats - protection
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild
The Common House Martin is generally not threatened. It remains numerous over much of its range. However, there has been a certain decline in western Europe since the second half of the 20th century. Figures have reached worrying levels, for example -75% in Brussels over 10 years. And this decline seems to be accelerating in the early 21st century, especially in France. The species is becoming rarer in the countryside and is disappearing from some cities. Several negative factors can be cited to explain this scarcity, such as an Atlantian climate giving wet and cold springs that make it difficult for juveniles to feed, a general decrease of flying insect life due to the excessive use of pesticides on the ground but also hotter and drier summers that hinder the emergence of insects, renovation of buildings with deliberate destruction of nests despite the law that protects them, climatic hazards on migration routes such as endemic drought in the Sahel, etc. An effort must be made to better protect swifts in breeding sites. This is the only lever on which we can easily act. Any destruction of colonies should be avoided during the breeding season. And if destruction is deemed necessary, for example during the renovation of a building, the operation should be accompanied by compensatory measures such as the installation of artificial nests in the same place or in the immediate vicinity so that the adults are not completely taken by surprise upon their return from migration.
Sources of information
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: 25-01-2018 - Updated: 07-02-2018
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