Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Spain 13: Crag Martin

Eurasian Crag Martin
Spain in November is not a good location to go looking for hirundines, but we managed to locate a Barn Swallow on the last day of the trip at the Ebro Delta. A more expected species we found in the Pyrenees was Europe’s only resident species, Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris.

There is one perched in the centre of the picture!
 There are four described species of Ptyoprogne all told, with a range from southern Europe to Africa and across India to south east Asia. They are almost all non-migratory, although some eastern populations of Crag Martin are comparatively short distance migrants, travelling to North Africa and Arabia. They are all associated with rocky areas or mountains, and Eurasian Crag Martins are mostly found above 2000m.

Nests under ledge
Like all hirundines, Crag Martins feed in flight on any invertebrates they come across. A cliff face generates an updraft bringing insects up from lower elevations, and they often feed close to the cliffs to exploit this. As with many hirundines, they make nests out of mud which are located on the cliffs under overhangs or in crevices. Unlike House Martins for example they usually nest alone or in small colonies. They are also willing to exploit man-made structures such as bridges, and this may be part of the reason their range has extended north in recent years. As a resident species they do require at least some insects to be available all year around, which is why they are not found in northern Europe as breeding birds. Even as vagrants they are extremely rare to the north of their range, another effect of their sedentary habits.

Given their large range and habitat Crag Martins do not face any especial conservation issues and are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. As a group, only a few species of swallow are of conservation concern, mostly these last are island species or habitat specialists.

(photos mine taken in Portugal in April 2016)

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