Sand Martin

Riparia riparia


Sand martins are common summer visitors, arriving in March and leaving in October. They nest in colonies, digging burrows in steep, sandy cliffs, usually around water, so are commonly found on wetland sites. The tunnels they bore can be up to a metre in length. At a chamber at the end of the burrow, four or five eggs are laid on collected straw and feathers. Sand martins are sociable birds and will nest together in summer and gather to roost in large numbers in autumn; eventually they migrate to Africa to spend the winter.

How to identify

Our smallest swallow, the sand martin is brown above and white below with a brown breast-band and short, forked tail.

Where to find it


When to find it

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

How can people help

Over the past 50 years, the European population of sand martins has crashed twice as a result of drought in their wintering grounds in Africa. Here, The Wildlife Trusts and other conservation organisations are working hard to look after these summer visitors by managing wetland habitats sympathetically and providing artificial nesting banks and man-made burrows at sites such as flooded gravel pits and old quarries. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife happenings, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities and be helping local wildlife along the way.

Species information

Common name
Sand Martin
Latin name
Riparia riparia
Swallows, martins, swifts and nightjars
Length: 12cm Wingspan: 28cm Weight: 14g Average Lifespan: 2 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.