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 chest bar. Agile fliers, feeding mainly over water, they will perch on overhead wires or branches. They are gregarious in the breeding season and winter. During the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds’ African wintering grounds.
There are eight subspecies within this species.
Population size: 10.000.000-500.000.000 (the European population size: . 7.280.000-16.000.000) mature individuals Population trend: decreasing Red List Category: Least Concern
What do they eat?
Invertebrates, taken on the wing. Small insects, mostly gnats and other flies, normally over water, occasionally terrestrial or aquatic insects or insects’ larvae
Length: 12cm Wingspan: 26-29cm Weight: 13-14g
Feather colour: Brown, Cream/buff, White Leg colour: Brown Beak: Black, Short, Thin Natural habitats: Farmland Wetland; open spaces near larger bodies of water, sandy riverbanks, cliffs, gravel pits, sand pits
Sand martins are very gregarious and nest in colonies, which may contain more than 100 pairs. They excavate tunnels in sandy, dry vertical banks in sand pits and gravel pits, railway cuttings, riverbanks and sea-cliffs, and exceptionally in drainpipes in walls, and holes in brickwork.
Both males and females make a horizontal tunnel 45-90 cm long with a chamber at the end. Suitable sites may be used for years. New tunnels will be dug as the cliff collapses, or as old holes become too big (when they may be taken over by sparrows or starlings).
The white eggs, usually four or five, sometimes three to seven, are generally laid in late May or early June in a nest of feathers, grass and leaves. Incubation is by both parents once the last egg is laid, and lasts for about 14 days. All eggs hatch at the same time.
The young are helpless and remain in the nest. They are bed by both parents and fledge when 19-24 days old. After fledging, they are dependent on the parents for about one week. Usually two broods are raised each summer.