House Martin as House Guest; Welcome Sight or Noisy Neighbour?

House Martin as House Guest; Welcome Sight or Noisy Neighbour?

The house martin, is a migratory passerine bird of the swallow family which breeds in Europe.

The house martin (Delichon urbicum) gained its name due to its tendency to build nests in the eaves of houses. They can be a welcome sight indicating the return of summer; however, they can sometimes be problematic. Whilst house martins do not pose a threat to people, they are a particularly noisy species, their droppings can cause a mess, and they can nest in challenging locations, e.g., above the door of your house.

Identification

House martins are glossy blue/black in colour on their upper body, and white on their underbody.  They also have small white feathers covering their legs and toes.  They are small birds with a wingspan of 28cm, and a length of 13cm, and sport a distinctive forked tail. You can hear an example of the house martin call by clicking here.

Nests

House martin nests are built using mud, which is collected from ponds and streams. The mud pellets are mixed with grass, and lined with feathers, and can take up to 2 weeks to complete. House martins often return to the same nesting site each year to reuse an existing nest, saving around ten days work collecting mud.

House martin feeding children in mud nest.

House martin feeding children in mud nest.

When & Where to See House Martin’s

In the UK house martins are found in towns, villages, countryside, and wetlands between April to October.  They feed on flying insects and aphids, therefore are often spotted on the wing.  In the wintertime the house martin returns to Africa, where the climate supports a plentiful supply of insects.

Protected Species

Due to the dramatic decline in numbers, the house martin, their nests, and eggs are protected under The Wildlife and countryside act 1981. It’s UK conservation status is currently red, which is the highest conservation priority. It is an offense to intentionally kill or injure a house martin, or to harm or remove their eggs or nests whilst the nest in under construction or in use. Failure to abide by this law may incur a fine and/or a prison sentence.

The RSPB suggest the following considerations:

  • Allow house martins access to the parts of your roof where they would not create a problem
  • Do not use deterrents to prevent access to an active nest
  • Harming or preventing birds access to their eggs or young is illegal and may incur a high penalty
  • If house martins are nesting above your door and causing problems with their droppings, fix a shelf below the nest using key-hole brackets. The shelf will catch the droppings and can be removed easily to clean

Nest Management

Due to the house martin’s protected status, nests may only be removed when it is essential do so, and when the nest is no longer in use.  To help conserve this species it is appropriate to divert the house martins to another spot.

Here at Avon Pest Control, we offer an environmentally friendly service and take conservation of wildlife very seriously. If you are unsure of how to approach your house martin problem within legal limits, why not give us a call today on 01926 632 929 or 01789 293 463 to speak to a member of our team for advice regarding bird friendly solutions.