basic information

Northern House Martin

Delichon urbica (Linnaeus, 1758)

Городская ласточка | Қала қарлығашы

Avrasia, Zhetizhol ridge foothills, Tien Shan
© Askar Isabekov


The House Martin is less than Sparrow bird. Upperparts are black with bluish metallic gloss, underparts are all white. The tail is not deep-cut. The well specific feature is the white rump appreciable from a far. There is not dark band on the breast. Legs are feathered up to claws. Males and females are similar; there are no differences in color on all seasons. Juveniles are similar to adults but its upperparts are grayish-black with a bit of bluish metallic gloss, flanks and breast are with brownish tinge. Weight 14-25 grams, length 14-17, wing 9,8-11,8, wingspan 29-33 sm.


The House Martin breeds in Kazakhstan almost throughout except waterless deserts, forest-steppes of Northern Kazakhstan and steppes and deserts of Central Kazakhstan. The detailed distribution in Kazakhstan please see in the chapter "Subspecies".


The House Martin is common breeding migrant. It inhabits the being near water the caves and cavities in the cliffs and rocks; steep river banks; bridges; but mostly the buildings and other constructions in towns and villages, both on the plains and in the mountains up to 1800 m in Altai and 3000 m in Tien Shan. In spring it appears in small flocks of up to dozen birds in late March – early April in southern areas, and in late April – mid May in northern ones and highlands. At Chokpak Pass the last spring migrants recorded on mid – late May. Breeds in colonies of several dozen pairs; single nests are very rare. Firstly it settles the retained old nests. The quarter-sphere-shaped nest is built in cavity or under the roof or cornice; from the mud balls mixed with some grass or hair; and is lined with the thin grass and feathers. Both partners build it for about two weeks. Clutches of 2-6 (more often of 4-5) eggs is in early May – mid July. Both parents incubate for 12-15 day and feed juveniles, which fledge at 20-25 days old, in early July – mid August. It is probable that House Martins are double-brooded. It eats by the flying mostly little insects which are caught during the flight on the open countries. On the murky-rainy weather the House Martins don't hunt staying this time in the nests; or bunch and warm in the accommodation and attics. The autumn migration starts in late July, majority of birds migrate on late August – mid September in flocks up to several hundreds birds, often with Barn Swallow, Pale Sand Martin, Sand Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. Last autumn migrants recorded in early – mid October.


Delichon urbica urbica (Linnaeus, 1758)

    Description. Upperparts are bluish-black with the blue metallic gloss. The white color on the rump is less extensive than on lagopoda. The longest upper tail coverts are all black or have pale at the bases only. The white rump and upper tail covert feathers sometimes have dark shafts. The throat, breast, flanks and undertail are white, sometimes brownish-grey tinged. The axillaries are brownish-grey. The tail fork is deeper than on lagopoda, about 15-25 mm. Males wing 107-118mm (110.7), females wing 104-115 mm (111.6).
    Distribution. Breeds the most part of Kazakhstan from Uralsk and Atyrau eastward up to Southern Altai (Markakol lake) and Northern Tien Shan; in the south to Sagiz station, Daumdzhar gorge on Emba river, Naurzum Reserve, Astana, Ucharal and Almaty. On migration occurs throughout.

Delichon urbica meridionalis (Hartert, 1910)

    Description. On color it is indistinguishable from urbica. Size is less: males wing 98.5-111 mm (103.8), females wing 100-108 mm (104.2); tail fork depth is 12-19 mm.
    Distribution. Breeds in Western Tien Shan and Karatau. On migration occurs in Southern and South-Eastern Kazakhstan.

Delichon urbica lagopoda (Pallas, 1811)

    Description. Upperparts are bluish-black with the blue metallic gloss. The white color on the rump is more extensive than on urbica. All upper tail coverts are white. The white rump and upper tail covert feathers very rare have dark shafts. The throat, breast, flanks and undertail are white sometimes brownish-grey tinged. The axillaries are brown-grey. The depth of the tail fork is much less than in urbica.
    Distribution. One young male caught on 30 September 1984 and other one on 19 September 1987 at Chokpak Pass in foothills of Western Tien Shan.


Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005.
В.К.Рябицев. "Птицы Урала, Приуралья и Западной Сибири". Екатеринбург, Изд-во Уральского университета, 2000.
Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.



Delichon urbica urbica
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Delichon urbica meridionalis
(Hartert, 1910)
Delichon urbica lagopoda
(Pallas, 1811)

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