How to identify swifts, swallows and martins

Common Swift Apus apus Norfolk summer - David Tipling/2020VISION

Get some top tips for identifying our summer visitors - swifts, swallows, house and sand 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.

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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.

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House martin

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.

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Sand martin

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.

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Love sharing photos and stories of local wildlife with others? Got a mystery creature you'd like help identifying? Why not join BBOWT's private Facebook group.

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