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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Sand Martin

Riparia riparia

  • Name also: Bank Swallow
  • Family: Swallows – Hirundinidae
  • Appearance: A small swallow with dark brown upper parts and pale underparts with a brown chest band.
  • Size: Length 12–13 cm, weight 12–17 g.
  • Nest: In a burrow in a sandy bank, with a nest chamber about a metre from the opening. Typical nest material straw, root fibres and feathers. Adults dig new nest burrows each year, a task that can take 2–14 days.
  • Breeding: 4–6 eggs laid May–June, incubated by both parents for 12–16 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 18–23 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds throughout Finland in colonies around the edges of sand pits and in banks along sandy shores. Numbers highest in northern regions. Finnish breeding population estimated at 45,000–65,000 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Leaves Finland July–September, returning May–June after wintering in tropical Africa.
  • Diet: Flying insects, also spiders to some extent.
  • Calls: Wheezy rasping calls.
  • Endangerment: Vulnerable, protected throughout the country including the Åland Islands. Globally Least concern.

Sand Martins are the smallest swallows found in Finland. Their entire upper parts are sandy brown, and their underparts are white marked only with a fairly broad brown chest band. Juveniles’ upper parts have a lightly mottled appearance with rusty brown edges to their feathers, and they also often have brown speckling on their pale throats. Sand Martins’ tails are only slightly forked. Their beaks, legs and irises are dark brown.

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