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Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin) 

Afrikaanse oewerswael [Afrikaans]; Sisampamema (generic term for swallows, martins, swifts and spinetails) [Kwangali]; Lekabelane (generic term for swallows or martins), Sekatelane [South Sotho]; Nyenganyenga (generic name for swallow or martin) [Shona]; Mbawulwana, Nyenga (generic term for swallow) [Tsonga]; Pęolwane, Phętla (generic terms for swifts, martins and swallows) [Tswana]; Vale oeverzwaluw [Dutch]; Hirondelle paludicole [French]; Braunkehl-uferschwalbe, Afrikanische uferschwalbe [German]; Andorinha-das-barreiras-africana [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes  > Family: Hirundinidae

Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin)  Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin) 
Brown-throated martin, Tala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©] Brown-throated martin, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]
Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin)  Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin) 

Brown-throated martin, South Africa. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Brown-throated martin (rare all-brown form), Standerton, Mpumalanga. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in Southern Asia, Madagascar and sub-Saharan Africa, from western Ethiopia through Tanzania to southern Africa. Here it is locally common across much of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, but particularly abundant in the Western Cape. It also has large populations in the Caprivi Strip and northern and southern Botswana; much less common in Zimbabwe, Namibia and southern Mozambique. It generally prefers rivers, open wetlands, dams, sewage works and estuaries, also foraging over land habitats, especially fynbos, karoo and grasslands.

Distribution of Brown-throated martin in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident but also nomadic, however it is present throughout the year across its distribution range. Its local occurrence is dependent on their being wetlands or other water bodies available for roosting and breeding.


It exclusively eats insects, doing most of its foraging in daylight, although it may feed after sunset at emergences of aquatic insects or termite alates. It forages in flocks over water bodies with with other swallows and swifts, grabbing prey from the water surface. It also aerially hawks insects over grassland or shrubland. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, usually colonial nester, with colonies usually comprising of 6-12 burrows.
  • The nest is excavated by both sexes, consisting of an approximately 30-80 cm long tunnel ending in a chamber, where a platform built of fine grass lined with feathers and other soft material. It is typically dug into a vertical sandbank along a river, quarry or road cutting, occasionally using old burrows of other birds.
Riparia paludicola (Brown-throated martin)   

Brown-throated martins at nest, Tala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

  • Egg-laying season is probably year-round, usually peaking from May-December.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for about 12 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both adults, leaving the nest after about 25 days (recorded in Kenya).


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.