One of the perennial problems at this time of year is figuring out whether that bird that just flew overhead at the speed of light was a swallow, a swift or a house martin.
But fortunately while these birds are all superficially similar, there are a range of differences between them that can make telling these three bird species apart reasonably simple once you know what to look for.
Swallows are most easily identified by their red chin and the longer feathers on either side of the tail which stick out like streamers and make them easy to spot in flight.
Swifts are one of those amazing birds which barely ever come to ground to rest except to nest spending virtually their whole life on the wing. High pitched screeching and curved, sickle-shaped wings together with a short tail help to identify this species who can often be seen in warm summer days performing acrobatics in the sky as they hunt for their insect prey.
The house martin is probably the smallest of these three species and has a gently curved tail, unlike the squarer tail of the swift or the “streamers” of the swallow. They are most easily identified, however, by their white rump which can often be clearly seen even from some distance as these birds fly past.