The Eurasian Crag Martin is a small bird that is part of the swallow family. It has a very large range. It breeds in the mountains of Iberia and north-west Africa, through to Southern Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Himalayas, and northeastern China. The populations in the north are migratory and will spend their winter in North Africa in places like the Nile Valley, Ethiopia, and Senegal. Those breeding in Asia will visit China, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East. However, some of the European birds do stay in the Mediterranean and move to Turkey or Cyprus.
The Eurasian Crag Martin
When they are breeding, Crag Martins breed on dry, warm, and sheltered cliffs that are mountainous with gorges and crags. They have an altitude of 2,000 to 2,700 metres (6,600 – 8,900 feet) but they can breed as high as 5,000 m (16,500 ft) in Central Asia. Their nest site choices are similar to Savi Pipistrelle’s which often breed in the same locations and have almost identical ranges.
As mentioned above, the Eurasian Crag Martin is quite small. It is only 13 to 15 cm long, and a 32 to 34.5 cm wingspan. It weighs in at 23 grams. It has ash-brown coloured upper-parts and paler under-parts. It also has a broader body, tail, and wings than any other European swallow. Its tail is quite short and squarish.
Its flight is considered slow for a swallow. Its average migration flight has been measured by Scientists at only 9.9 metres per second (32.5 ft/s), which is 11 metres per second less than other hirundines. It flies at high altitudes.
The Eurasian Crag Martin consumes insects most of the time. These are caught in its beak when it is flying. However, it sometimes does take prey off from the water’s surface, on the ground, and off rocks. When they are breeding, the birds will fly back and forth near a rock face to hunt for insects. Otherwise, it can be seen hunting above alpine meadows and streams. It will eat whatever insects it can find locally, such as ants, aerial spiders, flies, and beetles. Crag Martins living in Spain and Italy normally eat pond skaters, caddisflies, and stoneflies.
Eurasian Carg Martins sitting on the rooftop in Portugal
Fortunately for this bird, it is on the “Least Concern” list by the IUCN. This is because there are about 360,000 to 1.11 million Eurasian Crag Martins thought to be alive. Out of this, there are at least 120,000 – 370,000 breeding pairs. The population of Eurasian Crag Martins are thought to be expanding northwards, however this may be due to the increased of using man-made structures instead of natural structures as nesting sites. Expansions include Switzerland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia. It also uses motorway bridges as nest sites in Austria.