House martins breeding in Malta

To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Subject: House martins breeding in Malta
From: "david camilleri" <>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 19:40:22 -0400
Thursday, July 4, 2002

< House martins breeding at Nadur house > see photo link below.
by Natalino Fenech

Sixth pair recorded since 1981
A pair of house martins, (hawwief), are breeding in Nadur, the sixth breeding pair recorded since the first recorded in Malta in 1981, when two pairs bred in
Mosta, just one year after the close season for hunting was introduced.

Two other pairs bred the following year at Mdina and Filfla while a pair bred at
Dingli two years ago.

This is the first time house martins have been recorded breeding in Gozo,
although 69-year-old Karmenu Buttigieg, whose house was chosen by the house
martins for a nesting site, said he vaguely recalled a similar nest in the
cliffs at Dahlet Qorrot, where they had fields, in his childhood.

House martins build their nest out of mud, of which they carry mouthfuls and
stick them together to make the bowl- shaped small structure. The nest in Qala
Road, Nadur started being built around mid-June and is wedged between the
decorative ledge bordering a ventilator and the ceiling.

Mr Buttigieg said his three-year old niece Maria noted that the birds had
started building a nest on top of a ventilator of the house.

"I used to see the birds and heard them twittering but I had not noticed they
had started building the nest. It was sweet seeing them getting mouthfuls of
sand and building the nest from opposite sides, one bird placing the mud on the
right, the other on the left," Mr Buttigieg said.

Another house martin was present but this was chased off by the pair building
the nest. House martins often nest in colonies under the eaves of houses in
Europe and North Africa.

Mr Buttigieg said he was very happy the birds had chosen his home where to make
theirs. He said his children, who are visiting from America, were very happy
about it too.

"The birds are very tame. They are not afraid of people and still come and go with people around them. Children are often playing with their ball here, a mere
three metres away and the birds don't seem to mind it. I think they now have
eggs as I see only one flying about and it then goes into the nest and the other
one comes out," he said.

People in Nadur liked it too and everyone there knew about it.

When house martins first bred in Malta in 1981, the two pairs that bred under the balcony of a house in Mosta's main square just opposite the Mosta Dome had
stolen residents' hearts.

Six birds were noted prospecting for a nest site from June 8 to June 13, but the birds then disappeared. Two pairs returned a week later and two cup-shaped nests
were built under a balcony. Their young were fletched from each nest.

The following year, a pair of house martins built a nest adjacent to one of the clocks on Mdina Cathedral while another pair bred on Filfla. Two young fletched from the nest at Mdina and a second brood of two other birds was reared in the
same nest. The nest continued to be used as a roosting site until October 3.

Swallows, a related species, have bred twice in Malta, in August 1974 and in
July 1995. Four birds were raised from each of the nests.

House martins and swallows feed on insects and are protected by law, but many are still illegally gunned down by hunters, who shoot them for target practice.

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