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Fairy Martin

The Fairy Martin is September's Bird of the Month. 


Fairy Martin


Petrochelidon ariel


The Fairy Martin has reddish- brown across the head and eyes to the nape of the neck, iridescent dark blue across the back and shoulders, and dark brown along the wings and tail. The underside and upper rump are a clean white. At rest the tail appears forked, but in flight fans into a straighter line, and the white rump seen in flight easily separates it from the larger Welcome Swallow, which has a sharply forked tail small white patches only.

Both sexes appear similar, and the young Martins seen later in the season are duller in colour appearance.


Fairy Martins are widespread around mainland Australia, but tend to migrate northwards from southern Australia after the summer breeding season. Only occasional summer records have been reported from Tasmania, with vagrant records from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.


Fairy Martins feed on flying insects. They are usually higher in the air column than Welcome Swallows, which are often seen skimming rapidly around the lawns at ground level, or flocking just above the canopy of fig trees, but the Fairy Martins will come down to skim the ponds near their nesting site to pick off insects near the surface of the water, or to snatch a quick drink by dipping their bills in flight.  


Another common name for the Fairy Martin is the Bottle Swallow because of its unusual nest. Both sexes collect pellets of mud and use them to build a bottle shaped nest with a slightly downward angled entrance tunnel.

They nest in colonies, near suitable supplies of mud, often with many nests built side by side along a wall. In the wild they will build a nest, under a rocky overhang or in a cave or hollow tree, but are quite happy to build their nests on human constructions, under the eaves of buildings, under bridges, or, as is usually the case in the parklands, inside the culverts of storm water drains.

The inside of the mud nest is lined with grass and feathers and 4 - 5 eggs are laid. Incubation is shared and lasts about fifteen days. During the long breeding season the nests may be re-used, either by the occupants, or later arriving pairs.

Outside of the breeding season the nests often provide a refuge for micro bats.

In the Park:

Fairy Martins can be found throughout the Parklands during the breeding season, feeding above the playing fields and ponds. They have been found nesting in many of the storm water culverts entering the ponds, their rapid flights in and out betraying the location of their nests.

The culvert at the south-eastern end of Randwick Pond has been a good location to observe their nesting flights. They can also be found gathered by the ponds, or particularly in the Equestrian Grounds, collecting suitable mud for nest building.

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