Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Madagascar Plain Martin (Riparia cowani)


French: Hirondelle de Madagascar German: Madagaskaruferschwalbe Spanish: Avión paludícola malgache

Cotile cowani


, 1882,

Ankafana Forest, Betsileo, Madagascar


Hitherto treated as conspecific with R. paludicola and R. chinensis, but differs from former in its darker coloration below extending much farther down to cover belly (2); shorter wing than smallest race minor (effect size −2.17, score 2); very different calls, including a nasal stuttered phrase of short overslurred notes, like a short whinny (3) and clear downslurred notes (2)#R. Monotypic.


E & C Madagascar. Isolated population in the SW (Analavelona)#R.

Descriptive notes

12 cm; 8·5–10·7 g. Adult has crown, ear-coverts and upperparts greyish brown, darkest on primaries, lores blackish brown and tail dark grey-brown; below, has greyish-white... read more


Most frequently heard is a medium-pitched, mechanical, bubbling trill, e.g. “tititititeteteter”,... read more


Near rivers, lakes and other waterbodies, especially in breeding season, but rarely nests close to... read more

Food and feeding

Diet unknown beyond “small insects”. Feeds in small flocks, numbering up to 12, in flight, often very close to ground or water surface.... read more


Season Oct–Apr, but mainly lays Nov–Mar (during wet season). Colony size not well known, but apparently rarely very large. Nest a pad of... read more


Resident and sedentary, although there is just one record in far SE Madagascar (Andohahela).

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common, even abundant locally (e.g. on Ankaratra massif), but is largely restricted to wetlands in E & C highlands of... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Madagascar Plain Martin (Riparia cowani). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).