Belongs to: hirundines

Compare with: house martin

Sand martin Riparia riparia


Best time to see: end Mar to mid Sep

Key facts

Smallest of the swallow-like birds, sandy brown above

Habitat: river and gravel pit banks, sea cliffs

Localised summer visitors; usually arriving in mid-March

Recognition

Completely brown upperparts, dark breast band, white below; 11–12 cm

Aerial and sociable birds, often gathering in twittering flocks

Feed on insects, and especially gnats, often in large flocks over water

Lifecycle

One of earliest migrants to arrive, usually in mid-March; leave for southern Africa in September

Colonial nesters in holes in sand banks, sometimes using drainage pipes; two broods of 4–5 white eggs, May to July

  • Main photo

Photo © David Harrison