There are about 80 species of swallows and martins found all over the world. Most migrate between breeding grounds and wintering areas.
The sand martin digs a 120 cm long nesting burrow in riverbanks.
Only discovered in 1968, the white-eyed river martin spends the winter in reedbeds on Lake Boraphet in Thailand.
Purple martins often nest in old woodpecker holes or in nest-boxes. The female incubates the 4-5 eggs alone, but the male helps feed the young.
There is an old saying that the weather will be good when swallows fly high, but bad when swallows fly low. This is based on fact – in wet weather, insects stay nearer the ground, so their predators – the swallows – do the same.
Adult swallows will carry a mass of crushed insects, squashed in a ball in the throat, back to their young. A barn swallow may take 400 meals a day to its chicks.
The house martin often lives near people, making its nest under the eaves of buildings or under bridges or other structures. Sand martins breed in the northern hemisphere, migrating south in the winter in flocks of thousands.
In most swallow species, males and females are alike, but in the rare blue swallow, the female has a short tail, while the male’s is long and forked.
Swallows catch their insect food in the air as they fly.
The ancient Romans used swallows as messengers to carry news of the winners of chariot to neighboring towns.