Eurasian crag-martin (Hirundo rupestris)

Also known as: Crag martin, Eurasian crag martin, European crag martin
Synonyms: Ptyonoprogne rupestris
French: Hirondelle de rochers
GenusHirundo (1)
SizeLength: c. 15 cm (2)
Weight17 - 33 g (2)

The Eurasian crag-martin is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Belonging to the Hirundinidae, the swallow and martin family, the Eurasian crag-martin (Hirundo rupestris) is perhaps the least energetic of these agile and elegant birds, which are normally known for their supreme abilities in flight (3) (4). Less slender than other species in this family, the Eurasian crag-martin had a dusky brown crown and upperparts, dark brown wings and a dark, square-shaped tail with white spots on underside of the feathers. The chin and throat are pale with dark speckles, becoming pale buff-brown on the breast and brown-grey on the belly (2) (3). There are dull white chevrons on each side of the vent (3). The male and female Eurasian crag-martins are similar in appearance, while the juvenile has more buff-coloured feathers and a lighter throat with indistinct mottling (2).

The Eurasian crag-martin produces a soft, twittering song, with ‘prrrt’ contact calls, ‘whee’ excitement calls, and alarm calls of varied intensities (2).      

The Eurasian crag-martin has a wide breeding range throughout southern Europe, northwest Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia, southern Russia to Siberia, north Mongolia, the Himalayas, and China. It winters in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, India and southern China (2).

The Eurasian crag-martin is found in mountainous areas and on crags, coastal cliffs and around human habitation. It is typically found at altitudes of 500 to 1,000 metres, although in Asia it has been recorded up to 4,500 metres (2) (3).

The Eurasian crag-martin breeds between May and August, producing two broods each breeding season. The nest is built by both sexes, taking around 9 to 20 days to complete, and is an open half-cup of mud pellets lined with grass and feathers. The female continues to add to the nest throughout the nesting period. The nest is usually placed in a crevice or under an overhang on cliffs, or on bridges and buildings. Small groups of around 2 to 20 birds are usually found nesting in close proximity. A clutch of between 2 to 5 eggs is incubated almost solely by the female Eurasian crag-martin for a period of between 13 and 17 days, and the chicks are then brooded for around 10 to 11 days following hatching. The chicks are fed continually by both sexes at roughly 5 minute intervals until they leave the nest after 24 to 27 days. The fledgling chicks continue to be fed by the adults for a further 14 to 21 days, returning to the nest each night to roost (2) (3). 

The Eurasian crag-martin generally feeds on small, flying invertebrates, such as flies, beetles, butterflies and moths, which it catches on the wing as it glides steadily in flight, or which it takes from the rocks as it passes (2) (3) (4). It may occasionally perch on the ground to feed, and will also catch insects from the surface of water (2). The Eurasian crag-martin typically feeds close to cliff faces, often in pairs or small groups (2) (3).

The Eurasian crag-martin is not considered globally threatened. It is widespread and common throughout most of its range (2) (3), and the population is thought to be expanding northwards, perhaps due to the Eurasian crag-martins increased use of artificial structures (buildings and bridges) as nest sites (2) (5).

There are no known conservation measures in place for the Eurasian crag-martin.

To find out more about the Eurasian crag-martin and other birds, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Avibirds European Birdguide Online – Eurasian crag-martin (Hirundo rupestris) (December, 2010)
  4. Perrins, C. (2009) Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. BirdLife International (December, 2010)