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Sand Martin

Riparia riparia

Gabhlán Gainimh

Bank Swallow

Status
: Widespread summer visitor throughout Ireland from mid-March to September.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to concerns over the European breeding population, which is regarded as Depleted. Sand Martins had undergone a large historical decline, though the population is currently stable.

Identification: Our smallest breeding Hirundine species, being about a third smaller than both House Martin and Swallow. Adult Sand Martins have a brown head, back, rump and wings. The throat is white, as are the belly and vent except for a broad brown breast band. Juveniles have a pale yellow wash to head throat and face, as well as breast. The breast band is also noticeably narrower. In all plumages, has only a small fork in the tail, never has the long tail streamers of the Swallow.

Similar Species: Swallow and House Martin

Call: A rather hoarse “chrechrechre” is frequently given by birds flying over and which can serve as contact call and song. Noticeably different to the more musical calls of Swallows and House Martins, it is a good way of finding Sand Martins within mixed flocks of hirundines.

Diet:  Almost exclusively feeds on insects caught in flight.

Breeding: Sand Martins breed in burrows dug into river banks or quarries. These breeding sites are vulnerable to predation by Mink and Red Fox. Feeding birds disperse widely, favouring wetlands and rural areas. Less frequently seen in urban areas.

Wintering: This species winters in sub-Saharan Africa, crossing the Sahara Desert in autumn and spring.

Where to See: Common throughout Ireland.

Monitored by
: Countryside Bird Survey and BirdTrack.

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