Some of my best recollections of Rock martins are of a couple of hours spent trying to photograph an adult bird feeding its youngster while the young bird was perched rather precariously on a ledge jutting out slightly from its neighbours in a rock wall. The adult bird moved really fast, swooping in and feeding the waiting youngster often without even perching, usually from a position that completely blocked the action from my waiting camera. Then the adult would disappear for ten minutes or more before swooping in for another split second of action that I usually missed. A few reasonable photos were the eventual reward.


The Rock martin is a small bird, with a length of about 15 cm. The sexes are alike in both size and plumage colouration. They are brown overall, with the under parts being paler than the upper parts; they have pinkish-cinnamon throats and white windows are visible in the tail during flight. They have black bills; dark brown eyes and dusky brown legs and feet,

Rock martins are widespread throughout most of the southern African region, being absent only from the dry areas of Botswana. Their preferred habitats are rocky hillsides and mountainous areas, but they are also to be found around buildings where they grow accustomed to the presence of humans.

They are mainly aerial feeders, catching insects as they fly over open rocky terrain. They may also feed on insects attracted to lights at night.

Rock martins are usually silent, but have a soft twittering call. They are monogamous and build a cup-shaped nest of mud pellets lined with feathers that is usually placed under a rocky overhang or under a bridge or the eaves of a convenient building. The females lay a clutch of two or three white eggs that are lightly speckled with black or grey spots. They hatch after an incubation period of about 20 days.

The scientific binomial for the Rock martin is Hirundo fuligula; Hirundo from the Latin for a “swallow”, and fuligula from the Latin for “dull brown”.  Thus the name describes a dull brown swallow, which I guess is accurate enough.

Related Images:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.