House Martins breed throughout all of Europe (except northernmost Fenno-Scandia and Russia), south into northwest Africa, Turkey and parts of the Middle East, and east across northern and central Asia to Japan. All winter in the tropics; European and western Asian populations migrate to sub-Saharan Africa, specifically to West Africa in the case of those from western Europe.

            In Great Britain they are found everywhere except in some parts of Scotland: the highest parts of the Highlands, some of the offshore islands and parts of the northwest coast. There has been little change in this distribution since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas. There has however been a distinct change in abundance: Bird Atlas 2007-2011 showed striking reductions in southern England contrasting with increases in Scotland.

            In Wiltshire House Martins have been regarded as common summer visitors at least from the mid-19th century onwards. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them in 723 tetrads with breeding in 493. They were absent mainly from areas such as Salisbury Plain where there are few buildings to provide nesting sites. WTA2 recorded them in 672 tetrads, breeding in 399 – a 7% reduction in distribution and a 19% reduction in the number of tetrads where they bred.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:

“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976: The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986: The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser

Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007: Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.

“Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland

WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.

"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.