How to identify swifts, swallows and martins
Nearly always on the wing, the arrow-like swift is a familiar sight on a summer's evening, wheeling around the sky in groups. It mainly nests in older buildings, where it can gain access to nest sites via small holes below the eaves or under tiles.
Look out for the swallow performing great aerial feats as it catches its insect-prey on the wing. You may also see it perching on a wire, or roosting in a reedbed, as it makes its way back to Africa for the winter.
As its name suggests, the house martin can be spotted nesting in the eaves of houses in our towns and villages. Its intricate mud nests take days to build and are often returned to and used in following years.
The tiny, brown-and-white sand martin is a common summer visitor to the UK, nesting in colonies on rivers, lakes and flooded gravel pits. It returns to Africa in winter.