Hirundo fuligula (Rock martin) 

Kransswael [Afrikaans]; Inkonjane (generic term for swallow), Unongubendala, Unongubende [Xhosa]; iNhlolamvula [Zulu]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Lekabelane (generic term for swallows or martins) [South Sotho]; Nyenganyenga (generic name for swallow or martin) [Shona]; Mbawulwana, Nyenga (generic term for swallow) [Tsonga]; Pęolwane, Phętla (generic terms for swifts, martins and swallows) [Tswana]; Kaapse rotszwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle isabelline [French]; Felsenschwalbe, Steinschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-das-rochas-africana [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

Hirundo fuligula (Rock martin) 

Rock martin juveniles, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Hirundo fuligula (Rock martin) Hirundo fuligula (Rock martin) 
Rock martin, Rooiels, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Rock martin chick in nest, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across Africa, absent from the rainforest of central Africa and extending into Asia from the Middle East to Pakistan. In southern Africa it is common in most of South Africa and Namibia, with smaller populations in southern and northern Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern Mozambique. As its name suggests it prefers rocky habitats, especially cliffs, quarries, boulder-strewn hills and buildings.

Distribution of Rock 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 flying insects, mainly hunting around neon lights or over beaches at low tide. It also hawks prey disturbed by ploughs or fires and is commonly observed feeding at termite alate emergences.


  • It is a monogamous, usually solitary nester, although loose colonies of up to 40 breeding pairs have been found.
  • Both sexes build the nest (see image below), which is a cup of mud pellets lined with feathers, fine grass or plant down.
Hirundo fuligula (Rock martin) 

Rock martin at nest with chicks, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 17-29, usually 18-20 days.
  • The young are brooded and fed by both adults, staying in the nest for about 22-29 days. They still remain in the vicinity, returning to roost every night until they are about 45-50 days old.


Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.


  • 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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