Nepal house martin

The Nepal house martin (Delichon nipalense)[2] is a non-migratory passerine of the swallow family Hirundinidae. Its two subspecies breed in the Himalayas from northwestern India through Nepal to Myanmar, northern Vietnam, and just into China. It occurs in river valleys and rugged wooded mountain ridges at heights between 1,000–4,000 m (3,300–13,100 ft) altitude, where it nests in colonies beneath overhangs on vertical cliffs, laying three or four white eggs in an enclosed mud nest.

This martin has blue-black upperparts with a contrasting white rump, and white underparts. It resembles its close relatives, the Asian house martin and common house martin, but unlike those species it has a black throat and black undertail. It feeds in flocks with other swallows, catching flies and other insects in flight. It is subject to predation and parasites, but its status within its limited range appears secure.

Nepal house martin
three swallow-like birds with black upperparts and white rumps and underparts perched on or by mud nests under a rocky ledge
At nest site in Bhutan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Delichon
D. nipalense
Binomial name
Delichon nipalense
Moore, 1854
Distribution hirondelle Népal
Resident range


The Nepal house martin was first described by British entomologist Frederic Moore in 1854, and placed in a new genus Delichon created by Moore and American naturalist Thomas Horsfield.[3][4] The specimen or its description was attributed by Moore to Brian Houghton Hodgson and early literature sometimes refers to in as Hodgson's martin. Some older taxonomic sources such as those by S D Ripley specify the binomial author as "Hodgson = Moore in Horsfield & Moore, 1854".[5] Its closest relatives are the two other members of the genus, the Asian house martin and the common house martin.[3] This martin has a distinctive subspecies, D. n. cuttingi, described by American biologist Ernst W. Mayr in 1941 from a specimen taken near the Burma-Yunnan border.[6] White-throated birds in the southern extension of the range are similar in appearance to the nominate subspecies, but because of their geographical separation are sometimes considered to be a third race, D. n. bartletti.[7] Delichon is an anagram of the Ancient Greek term χελιδών (chelīdōn), meaning "swallow",[8] and nipalense refers to Nepal, where the type specimen was obtained.[4]

Distribution and habitat

The nominate subspecies D. n. nipalense breeds in the Himalayas from Garhwal east through Nepal, north-eastern India and Bangladesh as far as western Myanmar. The race D. n. cuttingi is found in northern Myanmar, along Myanmar's border with Chinese Yunnan and in northern Tonkin, Vietnam. The Nepal house martin is largely resident, but may move to lower altitudes when not breeding, and has been occasionally recorded in northern Thailand in winter.[6][9] The range in Thailand is poorly known.[10]

The habitat is river valleys and wooded ridges at 1,000–4,000 m (3,300–13,100 ft) altitude, although mainly below 3,000 m (9,800 ft). When not breeding, birds may descend as low as 350 m (1,150 ft).[6] The range of this species overlaps with that of the nominate subspecies of Asian house martin, although they breed at different altitudes. The height separation and the small differences in appearance seem sufficient to prevent interbreeding.[11][12]


The adult Nepal house martin is 13 cm (5.1 in) long, mainly blue-black above and white below. It has a contrasting pure white rump, the tail and upperwings are brownish-black, and the underwings are grey-brown. The legs and feet are brownish-pink and covered with white feathers, the eyes are brown, and the bill is black.[6] The chin is black but the extent varies clinally. In the northeast of the range, birds of the race D. n. cuttingi have black on the whole of the throat and the uppermost breast, but further west or south the black increasingly becomes restricted to the chin.[7] There are no differences in appearance between the sexes, but the juvenile bird is less glossy and has a duskier throat and buff-washed underparts.[7]

The eastern form D. n. cuttingi has a wing length of 99–106 mm (3.9–4.2 in), slightly larger than the nominate subspecies at 90–98 mm (3.5–3.9 in). Both subspecies can be distinguished from the similar Asian and common house martins by their black chin, black undertail coverts and much squarer tail.[6]

This is an exceptionally fast-flying martin which gives an occasional short chi-i call in flight. It is otherwise is a rather quiet bird, but it has a brief three-note breeding song.[7]



The Nepal house martin breeds between March and July, with some variation in timing depending on locality, and usually raises two broods. It normally builds its nest, a deep mud bowl lined with grasses or feathers, under an overhang on a vertical cliff.[6] Very occasionally, buildings may be used as nest sites, and in Sikkim this bird is recorded as nesting under school roofs near the Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary.[13] This martin is a colonial breeder, with colonies sometimes containing hundreds of nests.[6] Some birds may remain at the colonies throughout the year, using the nests as a winter roost.[7] The normal clutch is three or four plain white eggs averaging 18.6 mm × 12.8 mm (0.73 in × 0.50 in) and weighing 1.6 g (0.056 oz). The incubation and fledging times are unknown, but are probably similar to those of the common house martin, which has an incubation period of 14–16 days until the eggs hatch, and a further 22–32 days to fledging. Both sexes build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.[6][14]


The Nepal house martin feeds on insects taken in flight, hunting along ridges or above treetops. The diet is not well known, but includes flies.[6] This bird is gregarious, feeding in flocks often with other aerial predators like the Himalayan swiftlet,[6] or other hirundines such as the barn swallow, striated swallow or common house martin.[15]

Predators and parasites

Predators of this martin have been little studied, but it was the only bird recorded in a study of the diet of the mainly insectivorous collared falconet.[16] It is parasitised by a flea of the genus Callopsylla.[17]

Conservation status

The Nepal house martin has a large range that does not appear to be contracting, and its numbers appear to be stable, although the population is unknown. Since the range is more than 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi), and there are more 10,000 mature individuals, in the absence of any large decline in distribution or numbers the species does not appear to meet the criteria to be considered vulnerable, and is currently evaluated as Least Concern.[1] Although often localised due to the requirement for suitable cliff nesting sites, this species is fairly common in Nepal as a whole, and very common in some regions.[6][15] Some earlier authors have noted this species as uncommon in Nepal.[18]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Delichon nipalense". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Frequently Delichon nipalensis in older sources, but nipalense is currently preferred in accordance with David, N.; Gosselin, M. (2002). "The grammatical gender of avian genera". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 122: 257–282.
  3. ^ a b "ITIS Standard Report Page: Delichon". The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  4. ^ a b Moore, F.; Horsfield T. (1854). A catalogue of the birds in the museum of the East-India Company, volume 1. London; Wm. H. Allen & Co. p. 384.
  5. ^ Dickinson, E.C. (2004). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 46. 'A Catalogue of the Birds in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company' by Horsfield & Moore" (PDF). Zoologische Verhandelingen, Leiden. 350: 149–165.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Turner, Angela K; Rose, Chris (1989). A handbook to the swallows and martins of the world. Christopher Helm. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-7470-3202-5.
  7. ^ a b c d e Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Anderton, John C. (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 313–314. ISBN 84-87334-67-9.
  8. ^ "House Martin Delichon urbicum (Linnaeus, 1758)". Bird facts. British Trust for Ornithology. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
  9. ^ Tye, A.; Tye, H. (October 1986). "Nepal House Martin, Delichon nipalensis, new to Thailand". Forktail. 1: 83–84.
  10. ^ Robson, Craig (2004). A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand. New Holland Press. p. 214. ISBN 1-84330-921-1.
  11. ^ Dickinson, Edward C.; René Dekker (2001). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 13. A preliminary review of the Hirundinidae". Zoologische Verhandelingen, Leiden. 335: 138. ISSN 0024-1652.
  12. ^ Fleming, RL & M A Traylor (1968). "Distributional notes on Nepal birds". Fieldiana Zoology. 53 (3): 147–203.
  13. ^ Zafar-il Islam, M. (2004). Rahmani, Asad R. (ed.). Important Bird Areas in India. Oxford: Oxford university Press. p. 888. ISBN 978-0-19-567333-3.
  14. ^ Osmaston, B.B. (1918). "Further notes on birds nesting in the Tons Valley". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 25 (3): 493–495.
  15. ^ a b Shrestha, Tej Kumar (2001). Birds of Nepal: v. 2: Field Ecology, Natural History and Conservation. Steven Simpson Natural History Books. pp. 346–347. ISBN 0-9524390-9-3.
  16. ^ Sivakumar, S.; Singha; Hillaljyoti; Prakash, Vibhu (2004). "Notes on the population density and feeding ecology of the Collared Falconet Microhierax caerulescens in Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India". Forktail. 20: 97–98.
  17. ^ Lewis, Robert E. (August 1971). "Descriptions of new fleas from Nepal, with notes on the genus Callopsylla Wagner, 1934 (Siphonaptera: Ceratophyllidae)". Journal of Parasitology. 57 (4): 761–771. doi:10.2307/3277793. JSTOR 3277793. PMID 5105961.
  18. ^ Fleming, RL & M A Traylor (1961). "Notes on Nepal birds". Fieldiana: Zoology. 35 (8): 445–487.

External links

Asian house martin

The Asian house martin (Delichon dasypus) is a migratory passerine bird of the swallow family Hirundinidae. It has mainly blue-black upperparts, other than its white rump, and has pale grey underparts. Its three subspecies breed in the Himalayas and in central and eastern Asia, and spend the winter lower in the mountains or in Southeast Asia. This species is locally abundant and is expanding northward in Siberia, so there are no concerns about its conservation status.

This martin breeds in colonies, building mud nests under an overhang on a vertical cliff or the wall of a building. Both sexes build the nest, incubate the three or four white eggs and feed the chicks. The Asian house martin feeds on small insects taken in flight, usually caught high in the air. The presence of terrestrial springtails and Lepidoptera larvae in its diet indicates that food is sometime picked from the ground.


Atticora is a genus of bird in the swallow family Hirundinidae. These species are found in South America.

It contains the following two species:

White-banded swallow (Atticora fasciata)

Black-collared swallow (Atticora melanoleuca)

Banded martin

The banded martin or banded sand martin (Riparia cincta) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. It is an inhabitant of the African continent.

Black-and-rufous swallow

The black-and-rufous swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.


Delichon is a small genus of passerine birds that belongs to the swallow family and contains three species named as house martins. These are chunky, bull-headed and short-tailed birds, blackish-blue above with a contrasting white rump, and with white or grey underparts. They have feathering on the toes and tarsi that is characteristic of this genus. The house martins are closely related to other swallows that build mud nests, particularly the Hirundo barn swallows. They breed only in Europe, Asia and the mountains of North Africa. Two species, the common and Asian house martins, migrate south in winter, while the Nepal house martin is resident in the Himalayas year-round.

The house martins nest in colonies on cliffs or buildings, constructing feather- or grass-lined mud nests. The typical clutch is two or three white eggs; both parents build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. These martins are aerial hunters of small insects such as flies and aphids. Despite their flying skills the Delichon martins are sometimes caught by fast-flying birds of prey. They may carry fleas or internal parasites. None of the species are considered threatened, although widespread reductions in common house martin numbers have been reported from central and northern Europe. This decline is due to factors including poor weather, poisoning by agricultural pesticides, lack of mud for nest building and competition with house sparrows for nest sites.

Forest swallow

The forest swallow (Petrochelidon fuliginosa) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria.

Galápagos martin

The Galápagos martin (Progne modesta) is a species of bird in the Hirundinidae family, endemic to the Galápagos Islands.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, pastureland, and heavily degraded former forest.

Grey-rumped swallow

The grey-rumped swallow (Pseudhirundo griseopyga) is a species of bird in the monotypic genus, Pseudhirundo, in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Peruvian martin

The Peruvian martin (Progne murphyi) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae. It is found in Peru and far norther Chile.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, pastureland, and urban areas. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Preuss's cliff swallow

Preuss's cliff swallow (Petrochelidon preussi), also known as Preuss's swallow, is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.


Progne is a genus of birds. The genus name refers to Procne (Πρόκνη), a mythological girl who was turned into a swallow to save her from her husband. She had killed their son to avenge the rape of her sister.


The saw-wings, Psalidoprocne, is a small genus of passerine birds in the swallow family. The common name of this group is derived from the rough outer edge of the outer primary feather on the wing, which is rough due to recurved barbs. The function of this is unknown. The birds are 11–17 cm long and black or black-and-white in colour. The genus has an African distribution and all species can be found foraging over forest and woodland.

Sinaloa martin

The Sinaloa martin (Progne sinaloae) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It breeds semicolonially in sheer cliff faces within pine-oak forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico. Presumed migrant records also come from Belize and Guatemala. It is assumed to winter in South America.

Southern martin

The southern martin (Progne elegans) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in Argentina and southern Bolivia ; in winter it migrates to the western Amazon Basin.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, and urban areas.


Stelgidopteryx (Baird, 1858) is a small genus of swallows. It contains two species:

Adults of both species are brown on top with lighter underparts and a slightly forked tail. They nest in cavities but do not excavate their holes or form colonies.

These birds forage in flight over water or fields, usually flying low. They eat insects.

"Rough-winged" refers to the serrated edge feathers on the wing of this genus; this feature would only be apparent in the hand.

Streak-throated swallow

The streak-throated swallow or the Indian cliff swallow (Petrochelidon fluvicola) is a species of swallow found as Native (breeder, year-round resident or winter visitor) in South Asia in the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It occurs as a Vagrant in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and the Middle-east.

Tumbes swallow

The Tumbes swallow (Tachycineta stolzmanni) is a species of bird in the family Hirundinidae.

It is found in northwestern Peru and far southwestern Ecuador.

Its natural habitats are dry savanna, coastal saline lagoons, and arable land.

Swallows (family: Hirundinidae)


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