Delichon urbicum (Common house-martin, House martin) 

[= Delichon urbica

Huisswael [Afrikaans]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Lekabelane (generic term for swallows or martins) [South Sotho]; huiszwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle de fenÍtre [French]; Mehlschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-dos-beirais [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes  > Family: Hirundinidae

Delichon urbicum (Common house-martin, House martin)   

Common house-martin. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]


Distribution and habitat

Its breeding territory stretches from Britain and north-west Africa to central Asia. In the non-breeding season it migrates to Africa from southern Mauritania to Uganda and Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it occurs in patches across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, from the Kruger National Park and Gauteng through to KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern and Western Cape. It occupies a variety of open habitats, including fynbos, savanna, grassland and agricultural areas, but it is most common in mountainous or hilly areas, such as the Drakensberg and eastern highlands of Zimbabwe.

Distribution of Common house martin in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It exclusively eats arthropods, doing most of its foraging at high altitudes along with other swallows and swifts. It may also descend to near ground level to feed on insects scared of by bush fires or tractors.


  • There are have been sightings of pairs building nests in South Africa and Namibia, all dating from the pre 1970s. Most lack any details accept for two sightings in the late 60s - with both there was no evidence that suggest the breeding attempt went beyond the nest-building stage.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 


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