Sand Martin

Riparia riparia - Hirondelle de rivage

  • Order 


  • Family


  • Genus


  • Species



Linnaeus, 1758

  • Size
    : 12 cm
  • Wingspan
    : 30 cm.
  • Weight
    : 12 à 18 g

8 years

Geographic range


Description identification

Hirondelle de rivage
Hirondelle de rivage

The Sand Martin is a small brown swallow, entirely brown on the top, white and brown underneath, very closely linked to water. I specify the habitat because another brown swallow frequents our countries, the Rock Dove, but this one frequents wild rocky habitats.
On the perched bird, the slightly fork-tailed tail ends up at about the same level as the tip of the wings. There are no nets. On the top of the chest, a wide brown collar separates the white throat from the rest of the white underside of the body. The eye, the beak and the feet are black. The juvenile is characterized by clear edges marked on the feathers of the upper parts, to the forehead and even to the pectoral band.

Subspecific information 4 subspecies

  • Riparia riparia riparia (North America, Europe to c Asia)
  • Riparia riparia taczanowskii (s Siberia and c Mongolia to e Siberia)
  • Riparia riparia ijimae (Sakhalin I. Kuril Is. and Japan)
  • Riparia riparia shelleyi (Egypt)

Foreign names

  • Hirondelle de rivage,
  • Avión zapador,
  • andorinha-das-barreiras-comum,
  • Uferschwalbe,
  • partifecske,
  • Oeverzwaluw,
  • Topino,
  • backsvala,
  • Sandsvale,
  • brehuľa hnedá,
  • břehule říční,
  • Digesvale,
  • törmäpääsky,
  • Europese Oewerswael,
  • oreneta de ribera comuna,
  • Bakkasvala,
  • brzegówka (zwyczajna),
  • krastu čurkste,
  • breguljka,
  • Береговушка,
  • Layang-layang pasir,
  • ショウドウツバメ,
  • 崖沙燕,
  • นกนางแอ่นทรายสร้อยคอดำ,
  • 灰沙燕〔崖沙燕〕,

Voice song and cries

Hirondelle de rivage

The usual call is a short, monotonous grated/rolling sound. The song, if you can call it a song, consists of sounds very similar to the calls but linked together and forming a kind of continuous babble.


Hirondelle de rivage

The Sand Martin is very closely linked to water, mostly to fresh water but also occasionally to coastal areas. It catches insects mostly above water and its surrounding environment. Breeding usually takes place near water, although it can climb up to 2000m altitude if needed - though this is rare. Of course, during migration, it can pass over other environments. Less is known about the conditions in its wintering area in the Southern Hemisphere, but the connection to water is clear.

Behaviour character trait

Hirondelle de rivage

Like most Sand Martins, the species is gregarious, reproduces colonially and gathers in roosts in marsh vegetation for the night.


Hirondelle de rivage

Typical flight of the Sand Martin, agile and supple. Compared to others, it frequents the lower layers of the atmosphere for hunting.

Dietfeeding habits

Hirondelle de rivage

She feeds on small flying insects at low height above water or humid meadows. What is called the aerial plankton. So it is obvious that hunting in fine weather is more fruitful than in rainy weather.

Reproduction nesting

Hirondelle de rivage

The Sand Martin is a cave breeder for reproduction. It digs a nesting cavity in a soft substrate, usually sandy, silt-clayey or sandy-silty.

Hirondelle de rivage
Furthermore, since favorable sites are not always plentiful, it does so in a colonial manner. In order to minimize the risk of predation, it chooses a vertical wall or even an overhang. This wall can be natural, a river bank carved by the current, or increasingly often an artificial wall, a river gravel exploitation mostly.
The horizontal access tunnel and the terminal cavity are dug in the upper part of the wall and can reach 50 to 70 cm in length. The excavation work is therefore considerable for such a small bird that uses its beak, legs and wings to do so. The work requires fifteen days. The nest is furnished with plant elements from its surroundings and also feathers.
The laying is usually 4 or 5 eggs whose incubation is mainly provided by the female for fifteen days. The male relieves her when she goes out to feed. The young are flying at the age of three weeks. After the flight, the parents recognize their young by their voice within the groups.

Geographic range

Hirondelle de rivage

The Sand Martin has a Holarctic distribution in the summer. It breeds from Alaska to Kamchatka through North America and Eurasia, reaching high latitudes such as North Cape. It winters south of the Equator, mainly in America and southern Africa, Indochina and the Philippines, but not in Australia.

Threats - protection

Hirondelle de rivage
adult plum. breeding
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild

Due to its biology (colonial nesting, variability in site availability, difficulty in counting gregarious birds), the population trend is not easy to assess. It can simply be said that the Sand Martin is not a threatened species. The upcoming climate changes could change this.

Sources of information

Other sources of interest

QRcode Hirondelle de rivageSpecification sheet created on 15/11/2023 by
Translation by AI
published: - Updated: 15-11-2023
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