The adult House Martin of the western nominate race is 13 c (5.1 in) long, with a wing span of 26-29 cm (10.2-11.4 in) and a weight averaging 18.3 g. It is steel-blue above with a white rump, and white underparts, including the underwings; even its short legs have white downy feathering. It has brown eyes and a small black bill, and its toes and exposed parts of the legs are pink. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile bird is sooty black, and some of its wing coverts and quills have white tips and edgings. The white rump and underparts are very noticeable in flight.
Habitat and Distribution
The subspecies D. u. urbicum breeds across temperate Eurasia east to central Mongolia and the Yenisei River, and in Morocco, Tunisia and northern Algeria, and migrates on a broad front to winter in sub-Saharan Africa. D. u. lagopodum breeds eastwards of the Yenisei to Kolyma and south to northern Mongolia and northern China. It winters in southern China and Southeast Asia. The preferred habitat is open country with low vegetation, such as pasture, meadows and farmland, near water.
The House Martin is similar in habits to other aerial insectivores, including other swallows and martins and the unrelated swifts, and catches insects in flight. In the breeding areas, flies and aphids make up much of the diet.
The nest is a neat closed convex cup fixed below a suitable ledge, with a narrow opening at the top. It is constructed by both sexes with mud pellets collected in their beaks, and lined with grasses, hair or other soft materials. Four or five white eggs are usually laid. The female does most of the incubation, which normally lasts 14-16 days.
Calls and Songs
The male's song, given throughout the year, is a soft twitter of melodious chirps. The contact call, also given on the wintering grounds, is a hard chirrrp, and the alarm is a shrill tseep.