Chunky hirundine with almost unforked tail. Essentially uniform dusky brown, with almost black under wing-coverts; at close range shows dark-mottled throat, paler and warmer buff-brown forebody, dull white chevrons on sides of vent, and white spots on underside of tail. Flight least energetic of west Palearctic hirundines, involving much steady gliding.
Crag martins prefer to breed in mountainous areas, but like other mud-nest dwelling swallows, can be found in virtually any biome that has a plentiful insect population and offers supplies for nest building during breeding season. Crag martin mud nests are open and are constructed under cliff edges or human-made overhangs.
Hirundo rupestris is a widespread breeder across much of southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>120,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although the trend of the sizeable Spanish population during 1990-2000 was unknown, populations were stable or increasing across the vast majority of its European range, and the species remained stable overall.
Small insects. Prey mostly taken in flight, which typically involves much more steady gliding than other west Palearctic hirundines except African Rock Martin. Often hunts close to cliff-faces; will take insects disturbed from rock surfaces by the bird‘s own flight, and will pick insects from rocks as it passes.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 220,000-700,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Nest is built on vertical rock wall, in crevice, small hollow, or occasionally in shallow tunnel, and usually under an overhang. Frequently on building. Height above ground up to 40 m. Nest is a half-cup of mud, lined with feathers and plant material. Clutch size is (1-)3-5, incubation period 13-17 days and the young fledge after 24-27 days.
Northern populations partially migratory; mainly resident elsewhere though making altitudinal movements. Though largely migratory across southern Europe, from Greece to Spain, some winter regularly on northern side of Mediterranean basin and especially at western end. However, large numbers cross Straits of Gibraltar into Morocco, with peak passages October and March. Winter range in Africa mainly northern parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, though small numbers also occur in Sénégal, along Nile valley as far south as northern Sudan, and on Red Sea coast and in western highlands of Ethiopia. Resident in Cyprus and Turkey, though leaves upland areas for winter, when found mostly in coastal and other lowland places.