Common House Martin

Common house martins, also known as the northern house martin, or simply martin, especially in Europe are small passerine birds found in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Scientific Classification

Delichon urbicum

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Delichon urbicum

Common House Martin

Physical Description

Size: Adults measure around 5.1 in (13 cm) long.

Weight: They weigh about 0.65 oz (18.3 g).

Wingspan: Their wingspan is usually between 10 and 11 inches (26-29 cm).

Color: The wing coverts and belly are white, as is the rump, and the dorsal side is a steel-blue. The legs have white feathering while parts of the leg without feathers are pink. They have brown eyes and a black bill.


The three subspecies of the common house martin are:

  • D. u. urbicum
  • D. u. meridionale
  • D. u. lagopadum


The nominate subspecies live around western, central and northern Europe to western Siberia in the east, and migrates to sub-Saharan Africa in the winter. D. u. meridionale can be found from southern Europe, northern Africa, and west-central Asia, and in southwest Asia in the winter. D. u. lagopodum is found in eastern Asia, northeast China, and northern Mongolia. They can be seen around Southeast Asia in the winter.

Common House Martin Bird

Common House Martin Birds


They inhabit farmlands, meadows, and pastures near water. They may also be seen at elevations of 7,200 ft (2,200 m).


  • They are migratory birds who fly to warmer climates during winter.
  • These birds forage in groups, called flocks, which consists of its own species and other species of birds as well.
  • The usual hunting grounds for common house martins are 1.25 miles from their nest.
  • They may choose to roost in their nests or communally in cliffs, trees or other sheltered areas.
  • They are territorial during the breeding season, and male martins engage in fights with other males if the latter intrudes into their territory. Such fights are often violent and result in grave injury for one or both the combatants, sometimes even death for one.
  • They are loyal to their nesting sites and often return to breed in the same nest for more than one year.


Common house martins are insectivores. They catch insects like flies, aphids in mid-flight in their breeding areas, while in the wintering range they are more prone to eat flying ants.

Mating & Reproduction

The breeding season for the common house martin varies according to the range. They can produce two broods of offspring per year. They congregate in large colonies consisting of pairs in the hundreds. Clutch size consists of 4-5 eggs, which are incubated mostly by the female for about 14-16 days.


The chicks are born in an under-developed state, and remain in the nest under the parents’ care for 22-32 days, after which they leave the nest. They stay a further week with their parents even after they fledge.

Common House Martin Nest

Common House Martin Images


Most common house martins do not live to be more than 5 years old, but rare individuals have been known to live 10 and 14 years.

Sounds & Communication

The common calls include a ‘prrrrt’ and a longer ‘pri-pit’, reminiscent of two pebbles being rubbed together. The use a ‘tsitsitsitier’ as an alarm call. Their song is a flute-like, soft tone with dry rattles interspersed.


  • A flexible body gives it agility in the air to evade predators.
  • Strong wings give it the ability to stay airborne for long hours and catch insects.


Because of the above-mentioned agility in the air, there are few predators of the common house martin, but the Eurasian hobby has been known to prey on this bird successfully.

IUCN Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the common house martin under their ‘Least Concern’ category.

Common House Martin Flying

Common House Martin Pictures

Interesting Facts

  • The common house martin is similar looking to the Asian house martin and the Nepal house martin; the three species make up the Delichon genus.
  • There is an argument on whether to consider D. u. meridionalis a separate subspecies, as some believe that the differences between the nominate and this subspecies are because of their geographic separation, and hence invalid.

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