House Martin help needed in Scotland

01 May 2015 | No. 2015-21

The House Martin, a bird that nests under the eaves of buildings, has increased in Scotland by a massive 125% since 1995, giving more people in Scotland the chance to observe this delightful summer visitor on their homes.

The picture in England is very different.  Since 1995 England has lost almost a third of its breeding House Martins, and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) wants to find out why they are doing so much better in Scotland. To do this it first needs to know where there are, and are not, House Martins in Scotland, and it is asking people to sign-up to visit a randomly selected 1-km square and check for the presence, or absence of these wonderful birds. Despite the recent increases, House Martins are still scarce in some parts of Scotland.

Ian Woodward, House Martin Survey Organiser at the BTO, said, “Before we begin to understand what is driving the changes in House Martin numbers, we first need to collect more information and produce up-to-date population estimates so that we can monitor future changes. The more squares we can cover in Scotland, the more robust our results will be. We have already had people sign–up for 274 1-km squares but there are still large gaps in our coverage that we would like to fill.”

He added, “All it takes is two short visits during the summer to count any nests found, or to tell the BTO if there were no House Martins. Reporting absence is just as important as counting nests, as it will help us to determine future changes in population and distribution. To take part, or for more information, please visit”

Some of the biggest gaps to fill are on the Isle of Skye and on Harris and Lewis.

House Martins begin to arrive in April and leave for the winter during September to an unknown location in Africa, so, there isn’t much time to determine where all this year’s arrivals end up.

Notes for Editors

  1. The House Martin Survey - surprisingly little is known about the House Martins despite the fact that they breed alongside us, using our houses on which to build a nest made of hundreds of beakfuls of mud. Critically, it is not known why this species is in rapid decline in the UK. Currently, it is ‘Amber listed’ in the Birds of Conservation Concern listings, compiled by the UK’s leading conservation agencies.  
  2. Why survey House Martins now? – there is a real need to discover more about House Martins to help identify why they are declining and provide scientific evidence to inform policy decisions that could reverse the declines. The House Martin survey over the next two years will collect more information on population size, breeding ecology and habitat preferences, so scientists at the BTO can begin to tackle some key questions about this eagerly awaited summer visitor.
  3. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation

Contact Details

Ian Woodward
House Martin Survey Organiser

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email:  ian.woodward [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2015-21

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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