All About House Martins - House Martin Bird Facts & Information

About House Martins birds

House Martin

With their glossy blue backs bright white throat and pure white under body, these small birds are easily recognised across the globe. These forked tail birds belong to the swallow family and are closely related to swallows and other martins.

House Martins are aptly named because of their nest sites are under the eaves of houses. This association with human structures has made them a regular sight in our gardens. 

In Europe, the population of House Martins has declined by 25 to 50%. Although they are still widespread in numbers, this moderate decline has led to them being on the red list. 

Where do House Martin birds migrate to? 

House Martins are summer migrants, spending the warmer months in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

During the breeding season, which typically starts in April, House Martins can be found across much of the United Kingdom. They are known for building their distinctive cup shaped mud nests attached to the sides of buildings and cliffs.

However, as the colder months approach, House Martins undertake a long migration journey to warmer climates in Africa. Specifically, during the winter months, House Martins migrate southward to regions of North Africa, including countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

When do House Martins leave the UK?

House Martins typically begin their departure from the United Kingdom in late summer, around August, as the weather starts to change. During this time, they prepare for their long migratory journey to their wintering grounds in North Africa.

Some House Martins may delay their departure and continue to be seen in the UK into September and even October. This behaviour can be influenced by various factors, including weather conditions, sufficient food availability, and possibly individual variation in migration timing.

House Martin Habitats

House Martin

In the UK, House Martins are found across the whole country, however they are less common in Northern England and Scotland. 

The House Martin tends to live in areas with open country and farmland. They’ll usually pick somewhere near water as this is where they usually feed. You’ll also spot them in urban areas and suburban areas because of their love for nesting in the eaves of houses. 

House Martin life span

The typical life span of a House Martin is two years. Their breeding season will take place when they are one year old. 

Through the ringing of the House Martin, there have been reports of House Martins living up to seven years. 

House Martin Nesting

House Martin Nest

When the House Martins arrive in the UK, the first thing on their minds is finding a safe and secure place to build a nest. A House Martin will have nesting colonies so you can expect to find up to five House Martin nests in the eaves of your roofs.

They will gather mud from ponds and streams to build their House Martin nest in the eaves of buildings. On average, it takes a female House Martin around three weeks to build their nests ready for egg laying. The older birds will head back to their previous nests.

We’re not surprised these UK birds prefer to reuse an old House Martins nest rather than starting a new one!

Do House Martins use artificial nest cups?

Yes, as long as they are placed in the correct location, House Martins will use a nest box or nest cup. Due to loss of natural nests, House Martin nest boxes and cups are a great way to help the House Martin population.

House Martin Breeding Season

House Martin Nesting

During breeding season, the male House Martin will attract the female by following her and calling, once a female is attracted by this invitation display these breeding birds have found a mate. Breeding House Martins are not usually monogamous, and it is thought that one third of nests contain chicks fathered by another male. 

The female lays up to five white eggs and after about a fortnight of incubation, they hatch.  After around 20 days, these birds are ready to fledge the nest. House Martins will then go on to raise second broods before the House Martins migrate for the winter.

What do House Martins eat?

House Martins catch their food in flight at a higher altitude, feeding on flying insects and aphids. Quite an impressive way for a small bird to find dinner!

House Martins feed on bird seeds and some of their favourites include sunflower seeds and suet pellets. These are both bird foods that are perfect for bird feeders in your garden.  

House Martin predators 

House Martins are a vulnerable bird and face lots of predators. With birds or prey stalking nests and preying on both adults and young to domestic cats waiting for their opportunity to hunt these small birds they have a whole range of predators. 

Most surprisingly, one of their main threats are other invasive species of birds such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers. One in particular is House Sparrows. The House Sparrows will compete with House Martins for food and nesting and these two species can become very aggressive. 

How to attract House Martins to your garden?

Attracting house martins to your garden can be a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to attract house martins to your garden:

Provide Suitable Nesting Sites

House martins prefer to build their cup shaped nests under the eaves of buildings or other structures. You can encourage them to make new nest here in your garden by providing artificial nests cups or platforms placed under the eaves of your house or outbuildings. These can be made from materials like wood, plastic, or ceramic.

Mud Puddles

House martins construct mud nests, so having a readily accessible source of mud nearby can attract them to your garden. Create a shallow mud puddle or mud patch in your garden where they can collect mud for their mud nest.

Open Areas

House martins prefer open areas with plenty of airspace for hunting insects. Avoid planting tall trees or dense vegetation close to your house, as this can obstruct their flight paths and make it more difficult for them to access nesting sites.

Water Source

Like all birds, house martins need access to clean water for drinking and bathing. Install a birdbath or small pond in your garden to provide them with a reliable water source.

Five facts about House Martins

  1. House martins are renowned for their impressive nest-building skills. They construct cup-shaped nests out of mud pellets mixed with grass and feathers, which they adhere to the sides of buildings, under eaves, or on cliffs. These nests can be quite intricate and sturdy, often lasting for multiple breeding seasons.


  2. House Martins are migratory birds, spending their summers in Europe and parts of Asia, and migrating to sub-Saharan Africa for the winter. Their migration routes can span thousands of miles, and they often travel in flocks during these journeys.


  3. House Martins are adept aerial hunters, primarily feeding on flying insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and beetles. They have agile flight capabilities, allowing them to catch insects on the wing with precision manoeuvres. Their diet of insects makes them beneficial to humans as natural pest controllers.


  4.  House Martins are social birds, often nesting in colonies of varying sizes. They engage in cooperative behaviours such as nest-building and communal defence against predators. Their social nature extends to their migratory habits, as they often travel and roost together during migration.


  5. Despite their once widespread distribution, the Common House Martin, like many other bird species, face threats from habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change and in recent year House Martin numbers have declined and they are on the red conservation concern list.