36. The House Martin

Like its proverbial cousin the swallow, the house martin (Maltese: hawwiefa) is just as reliable a herald of spring. In fact some have already being spotted in the past days, flitting about snapping insects from the air. These are the first impatient individuals of the millions that are leaving their wintering grounds in tropical Africa, crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean on their way north to Europe to nest. The trickle will soon become a steady stream as these small acrobats of the air gather in large groups, rest and refuel for a day or two in Malta and resume their long trip. House martins look very much like swallows, but a quick check of the short tail will easily tell them apart from the deeply-forked tail of the swallow. On some occasions, one or two pairs of house martins have nested in Malta. But until trigger-happy hunters stop killing thousands of these birds for target practice, house martins will never become regular breeding birds here.

Text by Victor Falzon.

Copyright to Birdlife Malta.

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