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Birding Málaga


Common name Sand martin
Scientific name Riparia riparia
Type Waterbirds
Status Summer

Small bird (about 12 cm or 4.5 in), smaller than other martins and swallows. Upperparts of brown colour without reflections and white underparts. It has a wide transversal band of brown colour on the breast, very characteristic, which separates the white throat and the belly. Long and pointed wings, with a darker lower front edge. Dark tail, short and slightly forked. Short legs, wide mouth and short bill, flat and black. No differences between sexes.


Wetlands, river and rieverside

Where it lives

Species linked to fluvial and riparian environments, on whose margins it places its nests. Preference for river banks of wide fluvial courses. The Sand Martin also uses marsh vegetation as roosting areas.

How it lives

Summer bird present in the province as a breeder and also during its migratory passage. Two annual layings from March, of 4 to 5 eggs. This bird nests in colonies, in galleries on the slopes of the walls of river banks. It feeds on flying insects captured at low altitude, almost always near the water surface. Gregarious species.

Where it can be seen in Malaga

Less common martin species in Malaga than the Eurasian Crag Martin and much less than the Common House Martin. During its migratory passages it can be observed almost anywhere in the province. In the breeding period it is very localized in the northern part of the province, particularly in the grove of the Genil river, although there are also watchings in the Guadiaro and Guadalhorce rivers. In the Great Path it can be observed in stages 15 and 24.

Curious facts

The Spanish common surname for this bird is "zapador", which in English stands for "sapper". Sappers are combat workers who dig galleries or ditches. Martins and swallows are birds that are characterized by the construction of elaborate mud nests, almost using pottery techniques. The Sand Martin, however, has the habit of digging tunnels on sandy slopes (hence its name in English) to install its nests, behaviour that shares, for example, with bee-eaters. Unlike other martins, which can re-use their nests year after year, this species is forced to dig it every year since the river slope is usually a very unstable medium.

Wintering Summer Resident Migration