Bottle Swallow nesting

I’m sure many local folks would have noticed the recent gatherings of ‘swallows’ around bridges and culverts. These places are favoured nesting haunts of three local species – Welcome Swallows, Tree Martins and Fairy Martins. A few days back I discovered a small colony of Fairy Martins Petrochelidon ariel under a bridge near the Muckleford Railway Station.

Fairy Martin nests under construction, Muckleford, 13th September 2011

Fairy Martins are sometimes known as ‘bottle swallows’ on account of their unique nests, magnificent constructions assembled from hundreds of tiny pellets of mud and involving many days of toil. They nest in small colonies, usually less than fifty nests at any one site. A close relative, the Tree Martin is also found locally but makes a much less fancy nest and tend to favour natural sites such as tree hollows and rock crevices.

Fairy Martins, Muckleford, 15th September 2011

Both species of martin are similar in size and shape but look out for the rufous head and pure white rump on the Fairy Martin. Tree Martins have a glossy blue-black head and off-white rump.

Part of the Muckleford Fairy Martin colony.

6 responses to “Bottle Swallow nesting

  1. How nice to see these lovely birds again. When I bought my land at Clydesdale nearly ten years ago, I noticed many nests of Fairy Martins built beneath the iron roof of the old hayshed. I didn’t see Fairy Martins actually nesting in them, only one or two pardelotes.
    I was puzzled at this, but the reason soon become apparent – Spring is coming earlier, and the increased warmth caused radiated heat from the roofing iron to kill the baby birds before they fledged. The pardelotes have since abandoned the site.

    I found that the Fairy Martins had built about two dozen nests on the steep, south-facing bank of a nearby creek, where each year they successfully bring up many offspring. Interestingly, the parents bring the young back to the roof of the ancestral hayshed, where they gather for several days before dispersing.

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  4. We have bottle swallow nests in our garage which were built last year. This season there seems to be a striated pardalote around the nest and maybe using the nest. Would this be possible?

  5. My first visit from these intriguing birds was 2 years ago – none last year. However they are here in scores this year…….I’m selling my house at the moment so have allowed five nests only. Fascinating but I would like to discourage them. Do they disappear once their fledglings have left the nests? and come back again next year?

    • Hi Marj, Yes they will move on as soon as the young have fledged. Many sites are used over a period of years so you can expect them to return. Cheers, geoff

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