CHELIDON URBICA (L.).
La petite Hirondelle on le Martinet a cul blanc, Briss. Orn. ii. p. 490 (1760). Hirundo urbica, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 344 (1766) ; Temm. Alan. d’Orn, i. p. 128 (1815) ; Forster, Syn. Cat. Brit. B. p. 55 (1817) ; Naum. Vog. Deutschl, vi. p. 75, Taf. 145 (1823) ; Roux, Orn. Provenc, pl. 144 (1825) ; Werner, Atlas, Chelidones. pls. 2, 3 (1827) ; Menetr. Cat. rais. Cauc. p. 15 (1832) ; Selby, Brit, B. p. 123, pl. xlii. fig. 2 (1833) ; Gould, B. Eur. ii. pl. 57 (1838) ; Schl. & Susem. Vog. Eur. Taf. vi. I. fig. 1 (1839) ; Macgill. Brit. B. iii. p. 573 (1810) ; Nordm, in Demid. Voy. Russ. Merid, iii. p. 200 (1840) ; Hewits. Eggs Brit. B. i. p. 210, pl. lvii. fig. 3 (1846) ; Thomps. B. Ireland, i. p. 389 (1849) ; Blyth, Cat. B. Mus. As. Soc. p. 198 (1819, pt.) ; Kjaerb. Orn. Dan. pl. xiv. fig. 5 (1852) ; Schl. Vog. Nederl. pl. 58 (1854) ; Sundev. Sv. Fogl. pl. xvii. fig. 6 (1856-72) ; Linderm. Vog. Griechenl. p. 117 (1800) ; Schl. Dier. Nederl. Vogels, pl. 6. tigs. 5, 5 a (1861) ; Keulem. N. T. D. iii. p. 384 (1866) ; Borggr. Vogelf. Norddeutschl. p. 100 (1869) ; P. Gray, B. W. Scotl. p. 207 (1871) ; Harting, Handb. Brit. B. p. 35 (1872) ; Godman, Ibis, 1872, p. 171 ; Keulem. Onze Vogels, ii. pl. 19 (1873) ; Saxby, B. Shetl. p. 110 (1874); Harting, Summer Migr. p. 181 (1875) ; Fallon, Ois. Belg. p. 121 (1875) ; Seebohm, Ibis, 1882, pp. 210, 374 ; id. Brit. B. iii. p. 178, pl. 17 (1883) ; Dixon, Ibis, 1882, p. 561 ; Homeyer & Tanere, Mitth. orn. Ver. Wien, May 1883, p. 83 ; Gadeau de Kerville, Faun. Norm. p. 201 (1890) ; Olphe-Galliard, Faun. Eur. Oec. fasc. xxii. pp. 67, 761 ; Reiser, Vogels. Landesm. Sarajevo, p. 23 (1891) ; Gatke, Vogelw. Helgol, p. 438 (1891).
Le petit Martinet, Daubent. Pl. Enl. vii. pl. 542.
L' Hirondelle au eroupion blanc on L’Hirondelle de Fenelre, Montb. Hist. Nat. Ois.
vi. p. 614, pl. xxv. fig. 2 (1779).
Martin, Lath. Gen. Syn. ii. pt. 2, p. 564 (1783).
Hirundo domeslica, Leach, Syst. Cat. Mamm. etc. Brit. Aliis. p. 19 (1816).
Chelidon urbica, Boie, Isis, 1822, p. 550 ; Rupp. Neue Wirb. p. 106 (1835) ; Keys. & Blas. Wirb. Eur. p. lxi (1840) ; Rupp. Syst, Uebers, p. 22 (1845) ; Gray, Gen. B. i. p. 60 (1845); id. Cat. Fissir. Brit. Mus, p. 31 (1848) ; Bp. Consp, i. p. 343 (1850); Cab. Mus. Hein. Th. i. p. 51 (1850); Bolle, J. f. O. 1854, p. 160 ; Heugl. Syst. Uebers. p. 17 (1856) ; Jaub, et Barth.-Lapoium. Rich. Orn. p. 340 (1859) : Salvin, Ibis, 1859). p. 302 ; Tristr. l. c. p. 434 : Heugl. J.f.O, 1861, p. 119 ; Gould, B. Gt. Br. vol. ii. pl. 6 (1862-73) ; Jerd. B. Ind. i. p. 166 (1862) ; Newcon in Baring-Gould’s Iceland, n. 408 (1863) ; Brehin, Reis, Habesch, p. 272 (1863) ; Filippi, Viagg. Pers. p. 346 (1865) ; Bettoni, Ucc. nidif. Lomb. tav. 67 (1865-70) ; More, Ibis, 1865, p. 139 ; Baird, Ibis, 1867, p. 281 ; Degl. & Gerbe, Orn. Eur. i. p. 592 (1867) ; Loche, Expl. Sci. Alger., Ois. ii. p. 71 (1867) ; Tristr. Ibis, 1867, p. 361 ; Drake, t. c. p. 425 ; Saunders, Ibis, 1869, p. 174 ; Heugl. Orn. N.O.-Afr. i. p. 168 (1869) ; Doderl. Avif. Sicil. p. 145 (1869) ; Droste, Vogelw. Bork. p. 87 (1869) ; Wyatt, Ibis, 1870, p. 12 ; Elwes & Buckl, t. c. p. 200 ; Blanf. Geol. & Zool. Abyss, p. 349 (1870) ; Sharpe, P. Z. S. 1870, p. 202 ; Fritsch, Vog. Eur. tab. 23. fig. 5 (c. 1870) ; Salvad. Eaun. Ital. Ucc. p. 51 (1871) ; Shelley, B. Egypt, p. 125 (1872) ; Aist. & Harvie-Brown, Ibis, 1873, p. 59 ; Brooke, t. c. p. 237 ; Hume, Str. E. 1873, p. 323 ; Brooks, Str. E. 1875, p. 231 ; Dresser, B. Eur. iii. p. 495, pl. 162 (1875) ; Irby, B. Gibr. p. 102 (1875) ; Wharton, Ibis, 1876, p. 19 ; Walden, t. c. p. 356 ; Blanf. East, Pers. ii. p. 216 (1876) ; Tacz. Bull. Soc. Zool. France, ii. p. 138 (1877) ; Hume, Str. E. viii. p. 84 (1879) ; Bogdanoff, B. Caucas, p. 116 (1879) ; Newt. ed. Yarr. Brit. B. ii. p. 349 (1880) ; Butler, Cat. B. S. Bom¬bay Pres. p. 15 (1880) ; Collett, Norges Fugle, p. 286 (1881) ; Scully, Ibis, 1881, p. 428 ; Shelley, Ibis, 1882, p. 259 ; Biddulph, t. c. p. 269 ; Stejn. Pr. U.S. Nat. Mus. v. p. 32 (1882) ; Severtz. Ibis, 1883, p. 70 ; B. O. U. List Brit. B. p. 44 (1883) ; De Rochebr. Faun. Seneg., Ois. p. 216 (1884) ; Tristr. Eaun. & Flor. Palest, p. 62 (1884) ; Radde, Orn. Cauc. p. 36 (1884) ; Sharpe, ed. Layard’s B. S. Afr. p. 839 (1884) ; Eagle Clarke, Ibis, 1884, p. 142 ; Saunders, t. c. p. 374 ; Zarudn. Ois. Transcasp, p. 32 (1885) ; Whitehead, Ibis, 1885, p. 27 ; Chapman, Ibis, 1885, p. 175 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. Brit. Mus. x. p. 87 (1885) ; Giglioli, Avif. Ital. p. 186 (1886) ; Pleske, Uebers. Saug. und Vog. Kola-Halbins. p. 92 (1886) ; Lilford, Col. Fig. Br. B. pt. iii. (1886) ; Tait, Ibis, 1887, p. 191 ; Macpherson, t. c. p. 470 ; Salvad. Elench. Ucc. Ital. p. 81 (1887) ; Radde, Ornis, iii. p. 190 (1887) ; Guillemard, Ibis, 1888, p. 120 ; Lilford, t. c. p. 329 ; Reid, t. c. p. 433 ; Koenig, J.f.O. 1888, p. 166 ; Tristram, Cat. Coll. p. 203 (1889) ; Eagle Clarke, Ibis, 1889, p. 542 ; Saunders, Man. Brit. B. p. 157 (1889) ; Giglioli, Prim. Resoc. p. 313 (1889) ; id. op. cit. pt. ii. p. 187 (1890) ; Oates, Faun. Brit. Ind., Birds, ii. p. 269 (1890) ; id. ed. Hume’s Nests & Eggs Ind. B. ii. p. 177 (1890) ; Brusina, Motr. etc. [Orn. Croat.] p. 58 (1890) ; id. Orn. Jahrb, ii. p. 17 (1891) ; Graham, Birds of Iona & Mull, pp. 180-182, 228 (1891) ; Buckley & Harvie-Brown, Vertebr. Faun. Orkney Isl. p. 112 (1891) ; Frivaldsky, Av. Hung. p. 71 (1891) ; Evans, Ibis, 1891, p. 61 ; Sharpe, Sci. Res. Second Yark. Miss., Aves, p. 105 (1891) ; Seeb. Ibis, 1892, p. 19 ; Meade-Waldo, Ibis, 1893, p. 192.
Chelidon fenestra,rum, C. L. Brehm, Vog. Deutschl, p. 140 (1831).
Chelidon rupestris, C. L. Brehm, t. c. p. 140 (1831).
Hirundo Candida,Hirundo caria, Hirundo pallida, }- Brehm, Vog, Deutschl, vi. p. 77 (1833).
The Martin, Yarr. Brit. B. ii. p. 222 (1843).
Chelidon tectorum, C. L. Brehm, Naum. 1855, p. 271.
Chelidon urbica vulgaris, Chelidon urbica latirostris, Chelidon urbica fenestrarum, Chelidon urbica rupestris, Chelidon urbica septentrionalis, }- A. E. Brehm, Verz. Samml. C. L. Brehm, p. 3 Chelidon urbica tectorum, (1866, teste Dresser).
Chelidon cashmiriensis (nec Gould), Gigl. Avif. Ital. p. 187 (1886) ; id. & Manzella, Icon. Avif. Ital. fasc, xliii. (1888) ; Gigl. Avif. Ital. i. Resoe. p. 310 (1889). Chelidonaria urbica, Reiehen. J. f. O. 1889, p. 187 ; id. Syst. Uebers. Vog. Deutschl, p. 25 (1889) ; Hartert, Kat. Vogelsamml. Senckenb. Mus. p. 98 (1891).
C. subcaudalibus albis : Tectricibus immaculatis : supraeaudalibus longioribus nigris, rcliquis albis : mento albo, gastraeo coneolore, nee fumoso : cauda valde furcata.
Hab. in regione Palaearetica oecidentali, usque ad Asiam centralem, in Africa et in peninsula Indica hibernans.
Adult male in breeding-plumage. General colour above deep purplish blue, with slight indications of the white bases of the feathers showing on the hind neck and mantle ; wing-coverts blackish, the lesser series slightly glossed with purple, the median and greater coverts with a very faint steely gloss ; bastard-wing, primary-coverts, and quills also blackish, slightly glossed with steely green ; lower back and rump pure white, sometimes with narrow shaft-lines of dusky ; upper tail-coverts blue like the hack ; tail-feathers blackish brown, with a slight steel-blue gloss on the centre ones ; crown of head like the back ; lores and feathers round the eye black, as well as the ear-coverts ; checks and lower ear-coverts as well as the entire under surface of the body pure white ; sides of body and flanks washed with very pale smoky brown; thighs white; under tail-coverts white, sometimes with a slight wash of dingy brown, the shaft-stripes dusky and tolerably distinct, these streaks, however, often absent; under wing-coverts and axillaries smoky brown, the outer wing- coverts mottled with dusky bases to the feathers; quills dusky brown below, a little paler on the inner edge : bill black ; feet black ; iris dark brown. Total length 5.5 inches, culmen 0.35, wing 4.52, tail 2.5, tarsus 0.15.
Adult female. Similar to the male in colour. Total length 5 inches, culmen 0.35, wing 1.3, tail 2.5. tarsus 0.45.
Young. Distinguished from the adults at a glance by the yellow gape and white fringes to the ends of the secondaries. The colour of the upper surface is much duller, being often of a dingy brown with a gloss of purplish or greenish steel-blue ; the throat is pale smoky brown, Mell delined on the fore neck, and contrasting with the rest of the under surface, which is pure white. Before leaving England, the plumage becomes worn and dingy brown, but the new leathers are visible in examples killed late in October.
Sometimes the young have a pretty tinge of rufous isabelline on the throat and fore neck, and this same colour is often visible on the adults in breeding-plumage, pervading also the rump.
Hab. The whole of the western Palaearctie Region, extending into Central Asia and into the Indian
Peninsula. Wintering in the latter locality and in Africa.
THE House-Martin is easily recognized from the other species of the genus Chelidon by its strongly forked tail. The only other species which has no black spot upon the chin, but has the long upper tail-coverts black, is C. cashmiriensis. The latter species, however, may be distinguished by its smaller size, less forked tail, and by the smoky- brown tinge which pervades the white under surface. As a general rule the above¬named characters are sufficient to distinguish the two species, but it must be confessed that the smoky-brown tint of the under surface in C. cashmiriensis is often to be found in examples of C. urbica. One specimen of a young bird, shot near Hove in Sussex, on the 14th of October, would certainly be aseribed to C. cashmiriensis but for its deeply forked tail, which shows that it is C. urbica.
As far as the British Islands are concerned, the Martin appears everywhere to be a summer visitant, being as common in Ireland as it is in England, and nesting as far north as Shetland and the Orkney Islands. It occurs also in all the islands of the Inner Hebrides, and, until lately, was supposed to be absent in the Outer Hebrides, but in 1887 the Rev. H. A. Macpherson recorded a specimen from St. Kilda, and Messrs. Harvie-Brown and Buckley give North Ronay as an additional locality.
An excellent account of the distribution of the Martin in Northern Europe is given in Mr. Dresser’s 'Birds of Europe,’ to which there seems little to be added. In the Faroes, according to Mr. Benzon’s note, the Martin not unfrequently appears in spring, but does not breed. In Iceland its occurrences are very rare, and no instances of its breeding in the island are on record, though Faber states that in 1839 a few pairs began to nest in Husevig in Northern Iceland, but very soon left the locality.
In Scandinavia the species is generally distributed over the central and southern districts, but becomes rarer than the Swallow in the extreme north. Mr. Collett’s note is as follows :—“ It breeds in colonies throughout the eastern parts of Norway, but is less numerous on the west coast, though not uncommon, and nests commonly in some places, as, for instance, at Bergen. On the fells it breeds in and above the birch-region, in colonies in the rocks on the Fillcfjeld, Hugakollen in Valders, the Kvamenaaset in Oie, the Blaahoerne, and other places in the Dovre range.” Mr. Dresser states that Pastor Sommerfelt found it breeding here and there in East Finmark as far north as Vardo, and, according to Wolley, a colony bred in a cliff near the Bogfjord in South Varanger. It is common throughout Sweden, and visits Lapland, where Mr. A. C. Chapman found them arriving and commencing to breed on the 4th of June. Mr. Dresser noticed it everywhere in the parts of Finland that he visited, but von Wright says that it only goes as far north as Aavasaksa, a little above Tornea.
Dr. Pleske, in his work on the Mammals and Birds of the Kola Peninsula, gives
the date of its arrival in Sadankyda as the 18th of May, in Karesuando as the 17th to the 30th of May, in Utsjoki as the 1st and 4th of June, in En are as the 13th of May, and in Muonio as the 14th of June. It is recorded as the commonest breeding bird in the Kandalakseha district.
In Russia it is said to be generally distributed, and was found by Mr. Meves at Archangel. Messrs. Alston and Harvie-Brown state that they noticed House-Martins at St. Petersburg, Wuitegra, and Archangel, in which latter place they nested among the stone carvings of the Imperial Barracks. Mr. Seebohm and Mr. Harvie-Brown did not meet with it on the Petchora, but Mr. Sabanaeff states that it is found in the Ural Mountains, as high as 60°. Taczanowsky records the Martin as a summer visitant to Poland, but states that it has become much less plentiful during the last twenty years.
Throughout all the other countries of Europe the Martin seems to nest, arriving and commencing to build in the south much earlier than it does in the north. Thus Mr. Benzon considers that it is at least five days later in its arrival in Denmark than it is in England; while still further to the south, Mr. Howard Saunders found the birds busy building their nests at Seville on the 10th of February. Mr. Tait says that in Portugal the average date for the arrival of the species at Coimbra is the 19th of February, and that for departure the 7th of October; these dates arc given by Senhor Carvalho as the result of twenty-three years’ experience. Mr. Tait says that in 1887 he noticed a Martin at Abrant.es, on the Tagus, on the 2nd of February.
Colonel Irby gives the 5th of February as the earliest date of arrival noticed by him at Gibraltar ; and the species is found all over Spain, except in the Basque Provinces, where, according to Mr. Howard Saunders, it is almost unknown, though it is plentiful a little further to the east.
The Martin is also common in Italy in March and April, returning in September and October. Count Salvadori considers it unlikely that the species breeds in Italy, certainly not in the southern part, while Benoit’s statement that it winters there is also stated to be erroneous.
Doderlein mentions that the species winters in Sicily, but there is no record of its wintering in Corsica or Sardinia, where, however, the species breeds abundantly.
Mr. Godman’s note upon the species in the Canary Islands is as follows:—“This species is not recorded as a resident by other observers, and perhaps is only accidental ; but as I saw a pair that had a nest at St. Anna in Madeira, I include it. I did not meet with it in the Canaries or elsewhere. Bolle says he saw swarms of them at Oliva, in Fuerteventura, in April 1852. He remarks that they disappeared as quickly as they came.” Mr. Meade-Waldo, however, met with the Martin in the Canaries in thousands, and he considers it to be now a regular spring and autumn migrant.
In Algeria it nests in the towns and villages, according to Loche. Mr. Dixon says that he met with Martins everywhere from the coast to Biskra. Mr. Salvin noticed several at Souza, and again at Tunis. Dr. Koenig has seen the species in the latter country in January, and Canon Tristram says that a few pairs may be seen throughout the winter in Algeria.
Lord Lilford writes :—“ I observed but few of this species in Cyprus, but Guillemard found it breeding in great numbers on the walls of the monastery of Kikko towards the end of May 1887, and states that a few of these birds remain in Cyprus throughout the winter.”
In Palestine, according to Canon Tristram, the Martin “arrives in great numbers about the 5th of April, and having no windows to be utilized, builds on the faces of cliffs in all the valleys and ravines.”
Mr. Wyatt says :—“I met with a few of these birds in Wady Wisset, in the Sinaitic Peninsula, on March 16th ; it was the only place where I saw them, with the exception of a single bird I shot in Wady Eeiran.”
Both Lindermayer and Muhle record the Martin as a common visitor to Greece in summer ; and the same may be said of Turkey, according to Messrs. Elwes and Buckley. Professor Brasilia says that it is very rare in Agram, but plentiful in Cattaro, and he also found the species at Cettinje and Rijeka along with Hirundo rustica. In Southern Russia, according to Von Nordmann, it is everywhere abundant, nesting not only in the villages, but in isolated houses, such as posting-stations, and it is even found breeding on the stone or wooden bridges which are found in the middle of the steppe. In Astrachan, according to the observations of Mr. Henke, the Martin is not so common as Cotile riparia, and is not seen on the steppes. In the Caucasus, Dr. Radde says, the species is somewhat local, occurring in colonies, and not frequenting the low-lying and hot portions of the country. In many places it is more common than Hirundo rustica, and it is met with breeding up to 9000 feet. In Southern Dagestan, Dr. Radde found it rarer than the Chimney-Swallow.
There seems to have been some hesitation in the minds of several ornithologists as to the eastern range of the House-Martin, and neither Mr. Dresser nor Mr. Seebohm fully recognize the fact of its occurrence in India, where it has often, no doubt, been confused with C. cashmiriensis.
Mr. Blanford procured a specimen at Karman, near Shiraz, and gives the following note in his ‘Birds of Eastern Persia’:—“Not rare on the Persian highlands about towns and villages, though it is scarcely so common as it is in many parts of Europe. The Persians encourage the House-Martin to build in houses by hanging up little stands for them to settle upon, their presence in a house being considered lucky. I usually found their nests in villages at a considerable elevation, 6000 or 7000 feet, but the birds breed in Shiraz and other towns below 5000 feet. They are, of course, only summer visitors on the Persian highlands.”
Mr. Zarudnoi met with it commonly on the mountains during his journey to Trans¬caspia. At Akal-Teke it was rarer, nesting in the ruins of the fortresses. In August bands of Martins came from the north on migration.
Dr. Severtzoff docs not record the House-Martin from Turkestan, but includes c. dasypus as an inhabitant of that country ; he states, however, that Martins, which he determined to be C. urbica, were observed migrating in small parties through the Pamir in the latter part of August. In the British Museum are three specimens, received in exchange from the St. Petersburg Museum, which bear the following labels :—
“Tchimkent, May 3 ; R. Kurkuran, Aug. 18 ; and Uljauntai, N.W. Mongolia, May 11.’' Dr. Pleske kindly informs us that Tchimkent is a small fortress, not far from Tashkend. while Uljauntai is in Mongolia, between Kobdo and Urga, on a well-known caravan- route. The species has likewise been recorded by Messrs. Homeyer and Tanere from the Altai Mountains, though it might have been expected that C. dasypus would have replaced C. urbica in this locality.
During the Second Expedition to Yarkand in 1873-71, specimens were shot at Saspul and Snurla on the Indus at the latter end of August, at Leh on the 30th of the same month, and again at Sanju on the 29th of October; besides these specimens obtained by Dr. Stoliczka, Colonel Biddulph also secured a specimen at Kargil in Ladak ; the latter gentleman likewise states that it was observed by him in Gilgit in July, and Dr. Scully also says that it is a summer visitor to Gilgit, where it is very common in May and June. Mr. W. E. Brooks states that lie saw flocks of this species at Masuri at the end of April, and obtained three specimens, now in the Hume Collection. When lie returned in June they were all gone.
Mr. Hume received some specimens from Thundiani in Hnzara, a little sanitarium nearly 9000 feet above the level of the sea, where the birds are plentiful during the summer. Other specimens of the Common Martin are in the Hume Collection from Kandeish, killed in November, and from Shemogah in Mysore, obtained in April. Jerdon recorded the Martin from the Nilghiris in March, but said nothing as to its breeding in this locality, though Mr. Hume has received from Coimbatore some young specimens from Mr. R. P. Carter. These were obtained in January, and were doubtless bred in the neighbourhood, as the following note shows that the Martin actually breeds in Southern India. In Mr. Oates’s edition of Mr. Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds’ we read :—
“Major M. E. Coussmaker writes from Bangalore regarding this Martin :—‘I took the nest of this bird on May 1, in the Shemogah Districts, Mysore. The spot selected by this colony was a large overhanging rock in the bed of the River Tunga. about three miles from Shemogah ; they appear to have bred in the same place for many years, as the under surface of the rock was covered with old nests. The nests I got were so broken that I could take no reliable measurements. The eggs were mostly hard-set, and the number varied from two to four in each nest. They were pinky while before being blown, and measured .7 x .5 inch. I believe that this species lias not been found breeding in India before. Had I known this at the time I would have made greater exertions to get a perfect nest, but the rock is very difficult to get at owing to its shape and position.’ ”
In Africa the House-Martin is only known as a winter visitor, migrating by the
Nile Valley to the interior of South-eastern Africa. Captain Shelley observed the species in Egypt and Nubia in April and May, when it was apparently making its way northward, and he found no evidence of its breeding in those countries. Von Heuglin records it as a bird of passage only in N.E. Africa and Arabia, going north in February and March, and returning southward from August to the beginning of October, passing either singly or in large flocks, sometimes in company with other Swallows. A specimen was obtained by Mr. Blanford at Koomayli on the 2nd of February.
We cannot find any evidence of the capture of the species in Eastern Africa, and yet it appears to pass south by the East Coast route, for it was discovered by the late Mr. J. S. Jameson during his expedition to Mashona Land. It was met with on the Qnae-quae River on October 23rd ; and Mr. Ayres says that “for two or three days,from about 9 to 10 a.m., considerable numbers of Martius were flying up the river in a south¬easterly direction at a great height, only now and then one coming within range ; they were apparently migrating.”
We have never seen a Senegambian specimen, but M. de Rochebrune says it is common there in winter, and gives a number of places where it has been observed. He states that it arrives there in October. Mr. Keulemaus, who accompanied Hr. Dohrn on his expedition to West Africa, states that be shot a single specimen on Prince’s Island, and he entertains no doubt as to the correctness of the identification. The specimen was too much injured to be preserved, and this is the only certified occurrence of the species in that part of West Africa.
The House-Martin is a very familiar summer visitant to the British Islands, and it is quite a feature in the suburbs of London and other large cities. It arrives a few days later than the Common Swallow, towards the middle or end of April, leaving again in September and October. It often rears two, or even three, broods, and some of the later hatched birds are found with us in October, and several young specimens captured in that month are in the British Museum. The latest date on which Martins have been seen by the authors in this country was the 22nd of November, when Sharpe saw a flock of about a dozen individuals passing over the park at Avington, in Hampshire. These birds were wending south in the late evening, but as they circled at a great height above the house for a few moments, several shots were fired at them by Captain Shelley and some others of the party, who had just returned from shooting, but the birds were out of range and not one specimen could be procured. Of the identity of the species, however, there was not the smallest doubt. Mr. Seebohm even records the occasional occurrence as late as December, and Mr. Howard Saunders possesses a specimen shot at Reigate in the same month. In Scotland and the north of England the Martins leave somewhat earlier than in the south, and mostly disappear in September, whereas in the latter part of the country they depart early in October. Their autumn flight is heralded by large numbers of the birds assembling together with Swallows and Sand-Martins on the telegraph-wires, and often in the early autumnal mornings many hundreds of Swallows and Martins con¬gregate on the slated roofs of houses which the sun has begun to warm ; here they sit, busily preening their feathers, keeping up a constant twittering and bathing in the rain¬water of the leaden gutters if there should chance to be any water in them : such assemblages as the above take place annually at Holly Lodge, at Cookham, and generally last for about a fortnight, until, as if by common consent, the birds suddenly disappear and are not seen until the following spring.
The nest of the Martin is usually placed under the overhanging caves of houses, but in many parts of Europe it is still a frequenter of rocks, as is shown by the following interesting note in Mr. Henry Seebohm’s 'History of British Birds.’ He writes :— “There can be little doubt that the Martin pairs for life, and every season returns to its old nest and uses it again. This interesting fact has been proved by marking birds in various ways, and in some instances they have been found in their old haunts the following year. There can be little doubt that the bird formerly used to breed exclu¬sively on rocks, and that its habit of frequenting buildings is comparatively only a recent one. Thousands of Martins breed on the limestone rocks in Dovedale and in other parts of the Peak of Derbyshire, at Malm Cove near Settle in Yorkshire, and in many other places, especially on the cliffs of the sea-coast at Flamborough and other places in England and Scotland. It frequents alike the wildest portions of the country and the highly cultivated districts, and very often breeds in considerable numbers even in our largest towns. There is a curious nesting-place of this species in the Peak. The stone railway- bridge that spans Monsal Dale is lined with Martins’ nests, and the birds seem to be not at all inconvenienced by the passing trains. The nests are built outside the bridge, under the coping which projects over the walls.
“In the Parnassus they breed both on rocks and on houses. At Castri (the ancient Delphi) the nests of this bird arc common under the eaves of the houses in the village; and there is a large colony occupying the cliffs, in company with the Rock-Sparrow (Passer pelronia), in the picturesque gorge from which the famous spring Hows. I have also seen other large colonies in the mountain-limestone cliffs at Agoriane and Belitza ; but by far the largest colony I have ever seen is in a romantic glen in the mountains over¬looking Missolonghi. The rocks overhang very much, and when I was there hundreds of nests were to be seen under the overhanging part, whilst outside and in the valley the birds were flying in thousands, like a swarm of bees. In a cleft of the rock, in the midst of the Martins’ nests, was a huge nest of the White-tailed Eagle, and many of the Martius’ nests were in the possession of the Common House-Sparrow.”
Colonel Irby also remarks that the Martins build on rocks near Gibraltar, like Biblis rupestris. Mr. W. Eagle Clarke, too, found them breeding on the faces of the great cliffs on the mountain-sides at Andorra in the Eastern Pyrenees, at Canillo on a dill at 5300 feet. Again, in Palestine, Canon Tristram says that the specie's “reappears in small numbers about the 8th of April, and breeds in colonies on the sheltered dills in the valleys of Northern Galilee.”
Another method of incubation is that mentioned by M. Gadeau de Kerville. who says that in Normandy the nest is sometimes built in the cavity of a wall, the birds blocking up the entrance. A similar curious variation in the nesting-habits of the Martin lias also been noticed in this country, for our friend Mr. Howard Saunders informs us that in June, 1893, he watched a colony of these birds on the Pembrokeshire coast, which had their nests inside the fissures of the rocks, and completely out of sight. He watched the birds for a couple of hours with the aid of a powerful binocular, and saw the sitting bird fed and afterwards “relieved guard,” both birds coming out and one returning. The flying birds completely disappeared within the crevice, and the sitting bird never appeared at the entrance, so that the nest must have been some way inside. By landing in the bay below the crags, he was able to observe with certainty that there was not in that cliff a single external nest ; all were in fissures. This colony consisted of about twenty pairs, and there were others in almost every gully, but none so easily observed as the one mentioned, near Newport, Pembrokeshire.
In English towns and villages the mud-built nest of the Martin is usually placed under the overhanging eaves of a house or cottage, and the little architects may be seen in spring-time busily engaged at the puddles in the road or at the sides of ponds, collecting the nodules of mud with which they build their nests. These are generally built in the shape of a half-cup with an aperture near the top, and the interior is lined with dry grass and a few feathers. About the latter the Martin seems to be very careful to have enough, as will be seen by the note given below. The greatest enemy to the peace of the harmless and useful little Martin is the mischievous Sparrow, who often enters into the labours of the hard-working little pair and appropriates the nest, though instances have been recorded in which the members of a colony of Martins have united together and walled up the intruder within the nest which he had so ruthlessly appropriated.
A most fervent protector of the Martin in this country was the late Colonel Russell, of Stubbers, near Rumford. One of the authors once paid a visit to this genial old naturalist and spent a couple of pleasant days in his society. Driving from the station to the Hall, a distance of a few miles, we passed several farms on the Colonel’s estate, and his estimate of the intelligence of his tenants seemed to be in propor¬tion to the extent in which each farmer backed up his efforts to protect the Martins and exterminate the House-Sparrows. We had not then heard of the Martin-loving enthusiasm of our host, but, sitting under the shade of the house on that beautiful summer evening, we listened to his arguments in favour of the Martin, while our postprandial talk took place to the accompaniment of the crooning twitter of dozens of Martins in the nests a few feet above our heads. The next morning we accompanied our host in his round of visits to the various colonies which flourished under his protection, and he explained to us that as there was no proper clay for nest-building within a quarter of a mile of the house, he was obliged to fetch a supply which he deposited near the edge of a neigh¬bouring pond; and his first duty every morning was to moisten this clay with water, so that the birds should always have a supply of proper material for the building or repair of their nests. This proceeding on the part of the Colonel was thoroughly understood by his little pets, a few of whom, undeterred by our presence, immediately descended and flew away with some morsels of clay. At the time of our visit, however, the nests were nearly all completed, and in fact many of them contained young birds ; but in case any of his favourites should require material for the warm lining of their nests, the Colonel led the way to a hay-loft, the window of which he opened ; taking a large bag of duck’s feathers in his hand he whistled to the birds, and blew a handful of the soft feathers into the air. There was an immediate descent upon them, many of the birds seizing the feathers within a yard of our faces and carrying them, off to line their nests. There was a large old-fashioned Dove-cot in the farmyard, which was simply hung with nests on all sides, row upon row, while all round the house were tiers of nests, not only situated under the eaves, but even placed at a moderate height above the ground.
CHELIDON URBICA (L.).