Swallows and House Martins

It is really nice to get some interesting facts about swallows and house martins.  I never thought about the difference between swallow and house martin nests.

It is worrying that not so many swallows seem to be here this year. 

From Garth  –

On  looking back to some of the reports on the breeding of these species I wonder if the nests are being identified correctly?

It is swallows that build a cup nest and usually use the interior of a building, whereas house martins is an enclosed mud structure on the outside of buildings, such as eaves or the apex of a house.

Over the twelve years I have been ringing swallows as a BTO project I have only had one occasion where a swallow nested under the eaves using the usual cup nest. This was at a site one year when there was pressure for finding a site, as there were a dozen or so pairs setting up home.

The sad fact is over all those years it is only about 30% of adults that manage to return and breed, but they regularly come back to where they first nested. The young birds have a greater failure rate and tend to not breed where they were hatched but do turn up within a 2-3 mile radius.

At the end of this month May I have one swallow nest where the eggs have hatched, and are also bit later this year in Worcestershire.


One thing is certain – less swallows means more flies


Garth replied in reply to this articlce –  http://birdtablenews.com/2009/09/recording-swallow-numbers/

4 thoughts on “Swallows and House Martins

  1. Peter Goldsby

    House Martins.
    After 40 years a group of house martins showed interest in our house, they seemed to squabble over the site! Shortly after nest building began and what seemed to be a week the large nest seemed complete, yet at least 3 birds were flying in and out making the usual screeching noises.
    Later there would be a within the nest a bird Being fed by others suddenly earlier this week no further activity has been noticed.
    Do families share a nest ? why sudden evacuation?

    I have not made notes, the new event was apoint of interest to a casual bird watcher.
    peter Goldsby (14/06/2013) Location BB7 2QN

  2. Trish Post author

    It seems families must share nests, because you have seen it happen. I seem to remember a few years ago someone told me a similar story, but not sure which type of bird it was. Not many people will have the luck of being able to watch birds and their nests as close as you can. I suppose this means that not many people will see what you see – so it could happen a lot. It’s just it happens out of our view in in their own ‘bird world’. It is fascinating isn’t it? We see birds all the time, but really don’t know everything about them. Thank you for telling us this. I wonder if we will get other people writing in now.

  3. Peter Goldsby

    Following my letter in June regarding House matins having built a large nest under the eaves of our house there has still been no return yet earlier this week a bird was poking its head out of the nest but has not been seen or heard since.
    A new and disturbing point of interest is the blue tit nesting box which as usual had gone through the normal nesting sequence but in late May war broke out when house sparrows tried to take over the box of course the sparrows were unable to gain access so the box was abandoned only to become a home for bees! they buzz around all day thus panicking my wife.
    It seems that there is always squatters waitng !.

    Peter Goldsby

  4. Trish Post author

    There are a lot of things happening in your garden. First the house martins and now the blue tit nesting box.
    One empty nest and a nesting box filled with bees. Sparrows attacking blue tits. I wonder what makes them do it. I have blue tits and sparrows in my wire mesh feeder and they feed together ok – but I suppose nesting space will be the reason with you.

    I have just remember years ago someone said their daughter started playing loud music in a room near to where swifts were and the swifts (I think it was swifts) stopped nesting

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