Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Day 190 - Super Sand Martins

Sandmartin (Riparia riparia) landing on the nesting wall
Hey everybody it's Day 190 and today I've got a lovely little bird for you. It`s one that we often see at Fairburn Ings popping in and out of the nest site that's been created there and flying over the wetland looking for food. It's the smallest of the Martins and Swallows, recognisable by its brown plumage and short forked tail, it is of course the Sand Martin. So here are a few facts about them:

  • They eat invertebrates (insects) which they catch while flying (known as on the wing)
  • They are an amber status bird as they have had a couple of declines in recent years due to droughts in Africa.
I think I was spotted!
  • There are between 54,000 and 174,000 breeding pairs in the UK.
  • They can be seen in the UK generally from March to October when they then travel back to warmer climates.
  • They are 12cm long with a wingspan of 28cm.  They weigh about 14g and generally live up to 2 years. The oldest recorded though did well at 7 years and 9 months!
  • The males will dig out a suitable nest site in a sandy riverbank, and the female will then take over and make it cosy, lining it to make a warm nest to have her babies in.
  • The tunnels that they dig out and build their nests in can be up to a metre in length!
Showing its lovely eyes
  • Right at the end in a little chamber the female will lay her eggs (usually 4 or 5) and keep them warm with straw and feathers.
  • They belong to the family called European Hirundines along with House Martins, Swifts, Swallows and Nightjars.
  • It`s not always easy to tell them apart as they scoot around all over the place so quickly!  But here`s a few hints to be able to tell them all apart from each other:
  • And now its white belly
    • Swallows have a long forked tail, a deep rusty red chin, and a glossy black-blue head. They can be seen over farmlands and will perch to collect in numbers before migrating.
    • House Martins have a bright white underbelly and a glossy blue-black head and back. They perch in flocks and are often seen over built up areas or water.
    • Swifts are dark brown all over, have longer, thinner, scythe-shaped wings and a medium sized forked tail (not quite as short as the Martin, but not long streamers like the Swallow). They are fast flyers and screech or scream as they fly. Seen around towns and villages as well as open fields, but never perched. A swift actually sleeps on the wing!
      I don't know how they do this with their heads!
    • Sand Martins are paler brown and have a white chin, with a brown band at the neck, then a white belly. They are mostly seen near to water and colonise in sandy banks or cliffs, They are smaller than House Martins, and form flocks, often perching on wires.
Well that`s a quick summary of this pretty little bird. If you want to find out more check out:

Hope you enjoyed.


1 comment:

  1. These are such adorable birds, they're so sweet! - Tasha