Rescue &
rehabilitation
What to do if you find a house martin on the ground

Put the bird(s) in a small bowl in a ventilated box and in a warm, quiet place. Contact a rehabber from our emergency contacts/contact your local wildlife rescue centre or email us. (It should be noted that in the UK the majority of veterinary surgeries will just euthanise wildlife casualties that are taken to them, so it is preferable to find a wildlife centre or rehabber to assess the appropriate assistance required for the bird.) If you can’t make contact with a rehabber follow the help steps below.

How to identify a house martin

The house martin could be confused with the sand martin, swallow or swift. Click on the accompanying images to see that the house martin is predominantly black and white with blue flashings and white hairy legs. The sand martin is probably the most similar and easily confused with, being predominantly brown and white. Both species have short forked tails. The swallow has distinctive long tail feathers and has a red chin. The swift is dull brown , appearing black, with sickle shaped wings.

Compare the nest sites here

Illustrations by © Jonathan Pomroy

Has the bird or chicks fallen from a nest?

Help steps: Assessing and helping an injured house martin

Never attempt to see if a bird can fly by throwing them up in the air.  If the bird is feathered and old enough to fly, placing it in the open palm of a hand for a short while, should be enough to tempt a bird that is ready to fly.  If it doesn’t, it’s not ready!

STEP 1: Quickly assess the bird

  • Chick or adult? If the bird has a yellow fleshy part on the side of the beak where it meets the side of the face it’s a chick
  • Obviously injured? e.g. visible blood, clearly broken wing? If Yes then you need to seek medical help either from a Wildlife Care Unit or a Vet. NOTE : try to find a Vet who is familiar with birds because dog/cat vets may not have the specialist knowledge to give the correct advice on injury/food
  • Injured by a cat? Must be taken to a vet as soon as possible for anti-biotic treatment. Or, contact a rehabber from our Emergency Contact list

STEP 2: Put the bird in safe place and keep it warm while you consider the next steps

  • Find a cardboard box e.g. a shoe box, and make some ventilation holes in the lid or side. Place some kitchen paper in the bottom of the box.
  • Place a cereal bowl in the box and line it with old t-shirt fabric of piece of kitchen paper to keep it cosy. NOTE : do not use cotton wool or loose polyester fibre because the claws, mouth and tongue could get tangled up in this.
  • Place the bird(s) in the bowl, put the lid on the box and put in a quiet, warm location e.g. airing cupboard, utility room. NOTE : Keeping the bird warm can be a life saver. You can place a bottle filled with hot water and wrapped in a cloth inside the box but a little distance away from the bowl (don’t use boiling hot water)
  • Or, if it’s injured take it to the vet in the safety of the box to keep it as calm as possible.
  • There’s no need to give the bird water or to feed it at this Step unless it is obviously very dehydrated in which case see Part 2 under fluid/food.

STEP 3: Has the nest collapsed?

  • If the answer is Yes to All of the questions below you can try to put a ‘substitute’ nest on the window ledge as per instructions in the next section.
  • Has the House Martin has collapsed within the past few hours?
  • Have you found live chicks on the ground below the nest?
  • Are they uninjured?
  • Are the chicks still downy with only a few or no feathers?
  • Is there a window ledge no more than a couple of meters below where the nest was located?
  • Are the adult birds still flying up to where the nest was?
  • If the answer is NO go to Step 4.

How to make and install a ‘substitute’ nest using a black plastic plant pot

  • Use a medium sized black plastic plant pot (big enough to fit all the rescue birds plus 2 parents)
    Cut an oval entrance (approx. 6cm x 4cm) in the side of the pot that is about 6 cm from the top (see image 1 below)
  • Make two holes in the side of the pot that you can use to attach string to secure the pot to the window
  • Place some bedding in the bottom of the pot e.g. a little sawdust, or moss, or hay (nothing too stringy because the birds could get their claws caught in).
    Place the chicks inside the pot (see image below), place it on the window ledge and secure it to the window
  • Place a piece of wood on top of the pot to keep the rain out (something that has a little weight and will not blow off)
  • Now you should observe from a distance to see if the adults find the chicks. This can take several hours
  • If the adults haven’t started feeding the chicks after half a day then the chicks will need to be brought inside and rehabilitated
  • Here’s a link to a video showing a parent house martin flying up to a ‘substitute’ plant pot nest

STEP 4 : What to do if you can’t put up a ‘substitute’ nest pot

  • Is the bird injured? If YES take it to a Wildlife Care Unit, Vet or contact a rehabilitator for advice. If you get confirmation that injury is not so serious that it could recover, then find a rehabilitator who can care for the bird as quickly as possible.
  • If the bird is not injured give some fluid to keep it hydrated until you can either find a rehabilitator or get some suitable food. It is very important to read Part 2: Providing Short Term Care for information on hydration and food.  
  • If the bird is very emaciated i.e. has very little or no fat on the chest (see diagram below) – find a rehabilitator immediately.’

Providing short term care until you can find a trained rehabilitator

Rescue birds are best cared for by a rehabilitator. But until you can find one, below is some short term general care advice. NOTE: house martins are sociable birds so one bird should not be kept on its own and should be taken to a rehabilitator immediately.

Providing short term care

Never attempt to see if a bird can fly by throwing them up in the air.  If the bird is feathered and old enough to fly, placing it in the open palm of a hand for a short while, should be enough to tempt a bird that is ready to fly.  If it doesn’t, it’s not ready!

Where should I keep the birds?

  • Small chicks can be kept in a box as described in point A)
  • Older birds that have all their feathers and are close to flying or are already trying to fly should be kept in a secure/safe place where they can perch and fly as described in point B)
  • House martins are sociable birds so one bird should not be kept on its own and should be taken to a rehabilitator immediately.  A bird kept on its own is in danger of imprinting with humans
  • Food and Supplements? See point C)
  • When is the bird ready to be released? See point D)
  • A few Important Points See point E)

a) Where to keep small chicks

  • You should keep them in a box. Either a cardboard box with ventilation holes or a plastic box with a net curtain or piece of light cloth over the top to allow ventilation in and prevent the bird from escaping
  • Line the box with a towel and then a layer of kitchen paper. Then get a small bowl and line this with kitchen paper or a piece of old t-shirt so that the birds can sit together and feel secure (see photo below). The birds will do their droppings over the edge of the bowl (see photo below)
  • DO NOT keep in a wire bird cage as the wings can get damaged
  • Hygiene is extremely important to keep the birds healthy so you should change the paper several times a day
  • NOTE : if the bird(s) is very young or on its own then it is best to provide some warmth. The simplest way is to place warm (not hot) water in a hot water bottle, wrap the hot water bottle in a cloth, then place this near to the bowl to provide some gentle heat to the bowl.

b) Where to keep chicks that are close to flying or learning to fly :

  • Chicks that have all of their feathers should be moved to a larger, safe environment. For example : aviary; kiddies travel cot; play tent; trampoline; flexarium
  • NOTE: these are all safe environments which are fully enclosed where the birds can learn to fly and perch in safety without accidentally escaping. A nesting bowl and perch should be provided
  • NOTE: You can use a room in your house for test flying BUT close the curtains so that the birds do not fly into a window which could be fatal
  • DO NOT let birds free fly around your house because they can become too tame which will make it difficult to release them back into the wild

c) What you should feed insect eating birds such as house martins, sand martins and swallows

  • DO NOT feed : earthworms, maggots, dog or cat food (a very small amount of soaked kibble can be given in the very short-term as an emergency) nor birdseed or cereal such as oats.
    You can feed live food such as:
    – Houseflies
    – Waxworms which are nice and moist. If the waxworms turn into moths you can also feed the moths to the birds
    – Mealworms: when the chicks are small it is best to cut off the head part to remove the sharp little legs but they can be left on once the chicks are older e.g. 10 days
    – Medium sized crickets: you must sort out the live crickets discarding any dead ones. Put the live crickets in a box and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen remove the legs and heads. Defrost the bodies as required by placing them in a little water until they are soft and room temperature. Don’t feed them to the birds is they are still frozen or cold.

Where to buy live food?

  • You can buy live waxworms, mealworms and crickets from local pet shops. They are usually used to feed reptiles
  • Mealworms should be the small/regular size. Not the monster ones
  • Crickets should be the medium black or silent crickets
  • If you are going to have the birds for more than a few days then it’s possible to buy the food in bulk from companies such as www.livefoodsdirect.co.uk
  • However, if you are living in the Republic of Ireland there are no such companies and you’ll need to buy food from a pet store
  • To keep mealworms healthy you can put bits of carrot, potato and dandelion leaves in with them for them to eat
  • Supplements for the House martins and swallows:
    It is important to give some mineral supplements especially if you are rearing the chicks from a very young age. Ace-high and Nutrobal are powdered supplements for reptiles and these can be used for birds. Dip and insect into water and then dip it into some of the powder before feeding to the bird. Do once a day. You should also give vitamin B and calcium gluconate three times a week.
    Below is a photo of healthy droppings. If they are watery the bird is getting too much liquid. If they are dry then the bird is dehydrated and needs some fluid. Feeding too many waxworms can also make the droppings watery so a good balance of food is best for the birds

How often to feed

  • This depends on the age of the bird. Very small chicks may need the food cutting up into smaller pieces
  • For a chick that already has feathers you can feed a couple of insects per feed – more if they are still begging. They usually stop begging when they are full
  • Feed the birds about every 30 minutes dawn to dusk if possible giving one waxworm, a cricket body and one mealworm. This will vary depending on the age of the chick so you will have to judge it. If they are full then they usually stop begging
  • If birds are fed live food they don’t usually need any additional fluid.  However, feeding on the first day you can dip the food into some water to give added fluid
  • The chick should gain weight as its feathers are growing. The average weight of fully grown house martin is 16-18 grammes. This is the weight a bird should be at the time of release. It’s good practice to weigh your chick every day or two to ensure it is growing well
  • As the bird gets near to fledging the weight will plateau and it will be less hungry. It will do lots of preening and exercising of its wings, at this point it will lose a little weight as it gets itself into full fitness for flying

d) When should I release the bird?

  • Once the bird can perch, take off from the ground, and control flight then it is ready to be released
  • House martins feed whilst flying so the bird needs to be able to fly strongly enough to catch their food in flight, to be able to perch on a branch if they need a rest and be able to take off from the ground to get out of danger
  • When the bird is perching, the wings should cross to make a small ‘V’ when they are at rest
  • You should release house martins and swallows where there are other birds of their kind
  • You can place some live flies in the flying area with them for several days before release which can help prepare them for life in wild
  • They usually immediately socialise with the other birds and can learn where to feed and roost for the night

e) A few important points

  • Do not let the birds become too familiar with you because this can lead to the birds becoming tame, to imprint, and it will then be difficult to release it back into nature
  • House martins are sociable birds so one bird should not be kept on its own and should be taken to a rehabilitator immediately.  A bird kept on its own is in danger of imprinting with humans
  • Do not let birds fly freely around your house
  • A good diet with the supplements is key to rearing a healthy bird for release
  • Good hygiene is vital to keeping birds healthy
  • Only rehabilitate if you can’t find an experienced rehabilitator
  • Only provide fluids as described above.  Fluids must never be directly squirted into, or dropped inside a bird’s mouth as there is a high risk of it going down their windpipe and causing them to choke.
Rehab and rescue contacts

If you have a house martin emergency please select your area from the list below to show the available contacts.
We are always working to update our list of rescues and rehabbers, if you are a trained house martin rehabilitator and would like to be added to our list, please get in touch.
House Martin Conservation UK & Ireland are not responsible for the content or views expressed on third party websites.

Toby Carter

UK

North west England

Ainsworth Wildlife Rescue (Bury, Lancashire)
07923 115668
Email: ainsworthwildliferescue@gmail.com
Facebook

Kinder Bird Rescue (Blackburn, Lancashire)
07305 933065
Facebook

Lower Moss Wood Educational Nature Reserve & Wildlife Hospital (Cheshire)
01565 755082
Facebook

Bardsea Bird Sanctuary (Cumbria)
07842 848227
07843 166070
Facebook

Kendal College Animal Rescue Centre (Cumbria)
01539 814645
Facebook

Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Trust (Cumbria)
01697343812
knoxwood.org

Wolfwood (Morecambe/Lancaster/South Lakes)
07931 220094
wolfwood.co.uk

North East England

Northumberland & Borders Wildlife Rescue (Berwick)
07817 545290
Facebook

Weatheriggs Animal Rescue (Durham)
01833 627444
wetheriggsanimalrescue.co.uk

Berwick Swan & Wildlife Trust (Northumberland)
01289 302882
wan-trust.org
Facebook

Blyth Wildlife Rescue (Northumberland)
0330 229 17 10
blythwildliferescue.co.uk

Pennines Wildlife Rescue (Northumberland)
01434 345934
Facebook

Feathered Friends (Whitley Bay/Tyne & Wear)
07848 981452
Facebook

Yorkshire & Lincolnshire

Bradbury Bird & Wildlife Rehabilitation (East Yorks)
01482 880830
07786 349619
Facebook

Leeds Swifts
07778 768719
startbirding.co.uk
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Cherry Cottage Wildlife Rescue (Grimsby, Lincolnshire)
07730 748361
Facebook

Pudz Animal Sanctuary (South Killingholme, North Lincolnshire)
07903 198845
Facebook

Bedlam Farm Wildlife Rescue (Lincolnshire)
07947 916287
Facebook

Cleethorpes Wildlife Rescue (Lincolnshire)
07309 135987
Facebook

Moon & Stars Wildlife Rescue (Lincoln, Lincolnshire)
07736 676636
Facebook

Wild Things Rescue (Lincolnshire)
01526 578579
Facebook

The Wildlife Haven Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre (North Yorkshire)
07772 871833
thewildlifehaven.co.uk
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Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary (North Yorkshire)
07342 173724
whitbywildlife.co.uk
Facebook

Yorkshire Swan & Wildlife Rescue Hospital (North Yorkshire)
07763 424892
ysrh.org.uk
Facebook

Meltham Wildlife Rescue (West Yorks)
07846 344984
melthamwildliferescue.co.uk

Sam Brown (Wakefield, West Yorks)
Sam also rescues for Yorkshire Swan and Wildlife Hospital as well as independently.
07411 939387

West Midlands

Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre (Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire)
Animals can be brought straight in, no need to ring.
01386 882288
valewildlife.org.uk
Facebook

Herefordshire Wildlife Rescue
07802 460884
sirenwildliferescue.org
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Heronfield Small Breeds Farm & Animal Rescue Centre (Knowle)
01564 773406
Facebook

RSPCA Stapely Grange (Nantwich)
0300 1234 999
Email: stapeley@rspca.org.uk
Facebook
rspca.org.uk/local/stapeley-grange-wildlife-centre

Nuneaton & Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary 
02476 345243
07909 555310
07765 048999
warwickshirewildlifesanctuary.co.uk
Facebook

Cuan Wildlife Rescue (Shropshire)
01952 728070
cuanwildliferescue.org.uk
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East Midlands

Pet Samaritans Animal Sanctuary (Chesterfield, Derbyshire)
07872 421878
01246 455777
petsamaritans.co.uk
Facebook

Linjoy Wildlife Sanctuary & Rescue (Etwall, Derbyshire)
07780 742748
wildliferescueburton.webs.com
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Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital (Leicester)
07951 285366
leicestershirewildlifehospital.org.uk
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Little Souls Wildlife Rescue (Hinkley, Leicestershire)
07899 917387
Facebook

Brinsley Animal Rescue (Nottinghamshire)
01773 712999
brinsleyanimalrescue.org
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East

Maldon Wildlife Rescue (Maldon, Essex)
07811 307162
Facebook

South Essex Wildlife Hospital (Orsett, Essex)
01375 893893
southessexwildlife.org
Facebook

Marine & Wildlife Rescue (Great Yarmouth, Norfolk)
01692 650338
marineandwildliferescue.org.uk
Facebook

Runham Wildlife Rescue (Great Yarmouth, Norfolk)
07506 430246
runhamwildliferescue.org
Facebook

Foxy Lodge Wildlife Rescue (Hemsby, Norfolk)
01493 384237
foxylodge.yolasite.com
Facebook

East Winch Wildlife Centre (Kings Lynne, Norfolk)
03001 230709
rspca.org.uk/local/east-winch-wildlife-centre
Facebook

Norfolk Wildlife Rescue (Norwich, Norfolk)
07932 844524
norfolk-wildlife-rescue.ueniweb.com
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PACT Animal Sanctuary (Wisbech, Norfolk)
01362 820775
pactsanctuary.org
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Wildlife Welfare (Stevenage, Hertfordshire)
01438 313526
wildlifewelfare.org.uk
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West & South West

Wildlife in Need (Bournemouth, Dorset)
07770 478660
01202 428129
Facebook

Wild Bird Rescue (Dorset)
07719 658751
wildbirdrescuedorset.uk
Facebook

Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital (Mousehole, Cornwall)
01736 731386
mouseholebirdhospital.org.uk
Facebook

West Cornwall Wildlife Rescue & Rehab Volunteers (West Cornwall)
07855 151126
Email: westcornwallwh@gmail.com
westcornwallwildlifevolunteers.wordpress.com

Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre (Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire)
Animals can be brought straight in, no need to ring.
01386 882288
valewildlife.org.uk
Facebook

Athena Wildlife & Bird of Prey Centre (Plymouth)
07513 104536

RSPCA Oak & Furrows (Swindon)
01793 640136
Email: info@rspcanorthwilts.org.uk
rspcaoandf.org.uk

Spring Wildlife (Frome, Somerset)
07761 424197

Cornpop Critter Rescue (Frome, Somerset)
07933 990706
Facebook

Wildlife & Badger Care (Highbridge, Somerset)
07954 036687
wildlifeandbadgercare.org

Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital (Amesbury, Wiltshire)
07850 778752
wiltshirewildlifehospital.co.uk
Facebook

Old Farm Animal Sanctuary (Chippenham, Wiltshire)
01666 510726
Facebook

London & South East

Tiggywinkles – The Wildlife Hospital Trust (Haddenham, Buckinghamshire)
We have 24/7 helplines.  Also animals can be brought straight to Tiggywinkles without ringing first.
01844 292292
sttiggywinkles.org.uk
Facebook

Grays Wildlife Rescue (Andover, Hampshire)
07827 328061
Facebook

Hart Wildlife Rescue (Medstead, Hampshire)
01420 562335
hartwildlife.org.uk
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East Sussex Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service (WRAS) (Whitesmith, East Sussex)
07815 078234
wildlifeambulance.org
Facebook

Rogers Wildlife Rescue (Brighton & Hove, East Sussex)
01273 308268
rogerswildliferescue.co.uk

RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre (Fairlight, East Sussex)
0300 123 0723
rspca.org.uk/local/mallydams-wood
Facebook

Swans Wildlife & Nature Patrol Team (London, Greater London)
07976 228307
Facebook

The Wildlife Lodge (Bromley, Greater London)
07983 708497
thewildlifelodge.co.uk

Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) Enfield (Barnet, Greater London)
020 8344 2785
wras-enfieldwildlife.org.uk
Facebook

Folly Wildlife Rescue (Tunbridge Wells, Kent)
01892 543213
follywildliferescue.org.uk
Facebook

Swampys Wildlife Rescue (Sheerness, Kent)
01795 585405
Facebook

Willow Wildlife Rescue (Chislehurst, Kent)
07956 472284
willowwildlife.co.uk
Facebook

Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue (Didcot, Oxfordshire)
07549 322464
Facebook

Little Foxes Wildlife Rescue (Great Haseley, Oxfordshire)
01844 279469
littlefoxes.org.uk
Facebook

Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue(Surrey)
01344 623106
hawr.co.uk

The Happy Hedgehog (Yateley, Surrey)
01252 871478
happyhedgehog.org.uk
Facebook

Wildlife Aid Foundation (Leatherhead, Surrey)
01372 360404
wildlifeaid.org.uk
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Brent Lodge Bird & Wildlife Trust (Sidlesham, West Sussex)
01243 641672
brentlodge.org
Facebook

Isle of Wight Wild Bird Rehabilitation – Mr Wally AWOL & Friends (Cowes, Isle of Wight)
07765 564479
iowwbrwallyawol.com
Facebook

Isle of Man & Channel Islands

Manx Wild Bird Aid (Castletown, Isle of Man)
07624 247666
07624 473582
wildbirdaid.com
Facebook

Guernsey Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – GSPCA (Guernsey, St André-de-la-Pommeray)
01481 257261
07781 104082
gspca.org
Facebook

Ireland

Mayo and All Ireland

Lynda Huxley
094 9032422
083 4809532
Email: lynda.huxley@icloud.com 

Cavan and surrounding counties

Caroline van den Berg
087 4023222

Louth and surrounding counties

Yvette van Schreven
041 6852763

All Ireland

WRI Wildlife Hospital, Navan, Co. Meath
08188 77766
wildlifehospital.ie

Fermanagh and surrounding counties

Mary Polizzi
00 44 (0)77 3040 4991

Wildlife Rehabilitators and Vets in Ireland

Wales

Cardiff

Severn Wildlife Rescue (Cardiff, Cardiff)
07802 679744
severnwildliferescue.org
Facebook

Flintshire

Flintshire Wildlife & Pet Rescue (Holywell, Flintshire)
01352 712345
Facebook

Powys

Rhayader Wildlife Rescue (Nantmel, Powys)
07849 608633
rhayaderwildliferescue.com
Facebook

Newport

Socelex (Newport, Newport)
01495 211401
07968 102817
socelex.co.uk

Pembrokeshire

Tinkers Hill Swan & Bird of Prey Rescue Centre (Amroth, Pembrokeshire)
01834 814397
07771 507915
tinkershill.org

Scotland

Renfrewshire

Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust (Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire)
01505 502415
hessilheadwildlife.org.uk
Facebook

Clackmannanshire

National Wildlife Rescue Centre (Alloa, Clackmannanshire)
03000 999999
scottishspca.org
Facebook

Dumfries & Galloway

South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital (Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway)
01387 860461
soswh.co.uk
Facebook

Aberdeenshire

Valley Forge Native Wildlife Rescue (Banchory, Aberdeenshire)
01339 882893
07901 525357
valleyforge.tel
Facebook

The New Arc – North East Wildlife Animal & Rescue Centre (Ellon, Aberdeenshire)
07962 253867
thenewarc.org
Facebook

Highlands & Islands

Blue Highlands Bird Rescue (Brora, Highland Council)
07957 584817
Facebook

Further information and videos

Feeding a house martin that is reluctant to take food

Exercising in play tent

Releasing house martins

Edd Cottell
Don’t let the house martin disappear, let’s work together to save this enigmatic little bird.

How to help

See the ways you can help protect the house martin.

Nest cups

Check out our top tips – Where to buy nest cups, where to place them and dealing with droppings.

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