Martin vs Swallow?

Hello, saw a bird this morning, it was either a swallow or a martin but I couldn’t figure it out. Was starling-ish size, long triangular wings and had a section of bright white on underneath but dark overall. Flew in a fluttery manner, changing direction a lot. Any ideas? Thanks, Ellis 

  • Without a photo (which can be incredibly hard to get with some birds in flight), its hard to say.

    If you can get a look at the tail, Martins tend to have a short forked tail with wider span while swallows are longer forked tails.

    Using photos available from a good bird book, that's probably the easiest way to ID the bird in flight.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Mike B:

    Would the swallow’s tail be obvious from a distance? It was quite far away and I don’t think it had long streamers, which is what made me think it was a Martin, but the chest was similar to a swallow. That’s why I’m confused. Thanks, Ellis
  • This is going to sound weird but this is how I see them (and it does help me to distinguish them, even at a distance):
    Martins look like they enjoy flying but they have to put some effort into it.
    Swallows have perfected flying and they just do it without any effort.
    Swifts have no feelings - they are just crazy screaming flying machines.
    Does this make any sense to anyone else?
  • People misidentify, or find it hard to distinguish them, even with photos. As Mike said, it would just be guessing to i.d. from description. "Flew in fluttery manner" would better fit house martin, but that isn't a suggestion.
  • In reply to ouzel:

    From that perspective, it would have been a house martin. I like to see everyone else’s ways of distinguishing birds, the unique ones especially. Thanks, Ellis
  • In reply to Mike B:

    2 of them flew over again a minute ago, 100% house martins. Had a look through my binoculars to double check, had a white chin and undersides with a forked triangular tail. Thanks, Ellis
  • In reply to Robbo:

    2 of them flew over a minute ago, 100% house martins. Had a look through my binoculars to double check, had a white chin and undersides with a forked triangular tail. Thanks, Ellis
  • In reply to ouzel:

    2 of them flew over a minute ago, 100% house martins. Had a look through my binoculars to double check, had a white chin and undersides with a forked triangular tail. Thanks, Ellis