Hi everyone

The is a Housemartins nest in the eaves across the road. I have become fascinated by these fabulous little birds and this has given me questions I should love the answer to if any of you would be so kind??

1. They often congregate airborne around the nest having obviously taken on food - but not all of them enter the nest site although many approach and then shear away. Why is this?

2. I have noticed that in the evening just befor dusk they often fly over a short distance in a tight group -, and suddenly they disappear!!  Are they roosting together in a nearby tree?? 

3. Do any of them actually live in the nest where the young are?

4. As they are still apparently feeding young at sept 1st, will this brood be strong enough to migrate to Africa in a few weeks and will they sleep on the wing during the journey?

Thanks in anticipation for any relevent info!


  • A warm welcome to the forum Steve.

    I had Housemartins nesting for several years at my house, the nests are still there but we have not had any breeding pairs since 2006. I really miss them.

    I asked a question on this forum last May and was given this interesting link by one of the moderators, IanH.

    which may answer some of your questions.

    These are my attempts at answers but I am definitely not an expert. Hopefully by bumping up this thread one of our experts will confirm or refute my answers. :-)

    1. When the original pair have a second brood, the first juveniles often swoop to the nest and can help with the feeding.  They are very "family orientated" birds.

    2. Fledgings only return to the nest for a week or so and not every night. They do remain in family groups so it does seem very likely you are correct.

    3. I am not 100% sure but I think the female will stay with the young but when they get to a certain age there is just no room for extra adults.

    4. One year, ours had a very late brood and I remember how concerned I was. Luckily, they all fledged and had time to strengthen their wings before disappearing with the other families. Late broods are often successful. I do not know if House Martins sleep on the wing but I would imagine they have to for some of the journey.

    I hope some of this has helped and I do apologise if I have got anything wrong, I do not pretend to be an expert.

     I do agree they are fantastic birds and we loved having them. This month, several were swooping in and actually entering our old nests so I am hoping they are youngsters who are planning their accommodation for next year. Fingers crossed. 

    Kind regards Jane.

  • In reply to Goldcrest:

    Hi Jef

    many thanks for your kind reply which was interesting and helpful. I also enjoyed reading the BTO information. I shall miss the little blighters when they go!! Steve.

  • I think Jef has done you proud with her response Steve.

    Yes, they will be missed but, if the current spell of pleasant weather continues, the house martins will linger to make the most of it.  I'm missing the swifts already so will make the most of the house martins' lovely chattering calls for as long as poss!

    Watch out for swifts

  • In reply to ValO:

    hello valO. yes. i think so too as you may see from my response.

    ValO said:

    I think Jef has done you proud with her response Steve.

    Yes, they will be missed but, if the current spell of pleasant weather continues, the house martins will linger to make the most of it.  I'm missing the swifts already so will make the most of the house martins' lovely chattering calls for as long as poss!

    The thing I still dont know and would reallly like too is: Where DO they go at night??  The family were still flying at dusk last night long after the pigeons and crows had settled in their trees.

    can anyone advise?


    PS. Do you think jef is a lady then? How do you know??  :) ??

  • In reply to steve:

    Thank you Val for your very kind comments. I am always a bit hesitant about answering questions because I am not an expert at all. I did love my Housemartins though.

    Steve: I am sorry if my "name" confused you. When I joined, all the bird names seemed to have been chosen already so I just used my intials JEF. I should have put them in capitals I think. I don't know about lady, but I am female. Ha, Ha 

    Val and anyone else can click on my name and go to My Page which shows any details people choose to include. I assume you have visited your own, I can't remember if you go there automatically when you first register???

    Sorry but I am not sure about where they go at night and I would like a definite answer as well. I have 5 old nests. When we had two breeding pairs I am sure some used to sleep in the unused nests. More often they just disappear and I sort of assumed they roosted in trees. I must admit I have always wondered myself so hopefully someone will put us both out of our misery :-)

    Perhaps no one knows and we could start an investigation ourselves next year (assuming I get some breeding pairs again)!   

     Kind regards





    Kind regards Jane.

  • Anonymous

    In reply to steve:

    Hi Steve and Jef

    Nothing to add to all that excellent information except to say that we still have our Housemartins here in West Lancashire . I love to watch them swooping around the house.

    The Starlings are gathering on the electricity wires now too.



  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Cheers Pipit. Yes we have loads around here too thank goodness. I love watching them but it was even better and easier when we had breeding pairs under the eaves. :-( 

    They seem to have deserted me for the pub down the road.

    Do you have nests and breeding pairs at your house?

    Kind regards Jane.

  • In reply to Goldcrest:

    House martin roosting behaviour is quite interesting.  When the birds first arrive in the spring, the adults roost mainly in the nest, but to some extent, also in trees. If the birds are hit by severe weather early in the season, they have a habit of roosting communally to save energy and body heat. They may huddle together in a tree, or use a nest - a record of 14 house martins have been found roosting in one nest! As the chicks grow, one of the parents sometimes stops roosting in the nest, and moves out to a nearby tree or other sheltered site. Having said that, frequently the whole family roosts in the nest, even after the young have fledged. Fledged young often roost in a neighbouring nest especially if their parents are rearing another brood. Normally, but not always, the chosen nest is unoccupied. There is a record of a nest with two adults, one chick and four strange fledglings from a nearby nest! Aerial roosting is not proven, but there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that it happens. During migration and in their wintering grounds, house martins roost in trees and on various ledges. Unlike swallows, they only rarely roost in reedbeds. On migration, the birds often roost in house martin nests they come across en route.

  • In reply to Trochilus:

    Wow, that is fantastic to know. Thank you for taking the time to write such a full and detailed answer. It is really good to have a definitive answer at last and such an interesting read. I know Steve is going to be really pleased when he reads this.

    14 in one nest is amazing. I think I have heard reports of 60+ wrens being found in one nest in really cold weather?

    Thank you again.

    Kind regards Jane.

  • In reply to Trochilus:

    Dear Trochilus

    Thank you so much for taking time to give such a comrehensive and informative response. Now I can rest easy!

    I am only aware of the one nest across the road, under the eaves and the local poulation I would estimate at around 30-50 birds.

    last evening i thought they had gone....but then they began to appear from the my considerable relief as I have grown quite attached to them!  I suspect they had had a day out somewhere!!

    Q. Could all 30-50 have resulted from the original pair after spring arrival??

    To complete my evening a Hawker Hurricane WW2 fighter of all things appeared from the same direction and headed into the sunset toward Wales!! All alone and very mysterious since they are extremely rare!!

    Before dark, one Housemartin visited the nest about five times in succession staying mainly for the usual half-second but on the last time for about 20 seconds, which I have not seen before. The rest of the 'squadron' continued overhead, presumably feeding themselves up for the long journey ahead??

    To JEF, many thanks for the explanation. I was just aware that I may have missed something somewhere and everyone else know something I didnt which is not unusual.

    Thanks to every one else for their interest and kind replies.