Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Pale Rock Martin (Ptyonoprogne obsoleta)


French: Hirondelle du désert German: Wüstenschwalbe Spanish: Avión isabel norteño

Cotyle obsoleta


, 1851,

#R, north-east Africa = lower Egypt on right bank of Nile, in region of Cairo and neighbouring Moqattam Hills


See P. rupestris. Commonly treated as conspecific with P. fuligula and P. rufigula, but differs from latter in characters given under that species (with somewhat intermediate form pallida included in present species, being morphologically closer). Differs from former in its smaller size (effect size for wing of pallida −4.77, score 2); higher-pitched voice (2)#R; considerably paler pinkish-grey belly (2); and slightly paler upperparts (1). Eight subspecies usually recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. o. presaharica (Vaurie, 1953) – S Morocco, Algeria (except S) and N Mauritania.
  • P. o. obsoleta (Cabanis, 1851) – Egypt E to N, C & E Arabia and Iran.
  • P. o. spatzi (Geyr von Schweppenburg, 1916) – S Algeria, SW Libya and N Chad.
  • P. o. buchanani (E. J. O. Hartert, 1921) – Niger.
  • P. o. arabica (Reichenow, 1905) – NE Chad (Massif Ennedi), N Sudan, SW Arabia, Eritrea, N Somalia and Socotra.
  • P. o. pusilla (Zedlitz, 1908) – S Mali E to N & C Ethiopia and W Eritrea.
  • P. o. perpallida (Vaurie, 1951) – S Iraq and NE Saudi Arabia.
  • P. o. pallida A. O. Hume, 1872 – S & E Iran, SW & SE Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–14 cm; 14–24·5 g; wingspan 27·5–30 cm. Small to medium-sized, short-tailed hirundine with washed-out colours, including rather pale grey-brown upperparts, cream-white... read more


    Song a muffled, slightly raucous twitter, “tche-pte-tche-tec-t-t-che-che-chrrrrrr”, ending... read more


    Mountains, crags, cliffs, gorges, coasts, also human habitations, including towns and cities;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet flying insects, with stomach contents, and direct observations, of birds in Arabia comprising beetles, bees, wasps, ants, bugs, flies... read more


    Season Feb–Apr in NW Africa (occasionally from Jan), Jan–Jun in Egypt, mainly Mar–May (some to early Jul) in Israel, mainly Feb–Apr (Dec–... read more


    Partial migrant, with local changes in numbers, e.g. in Morocco. Forms usually small post-breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and generally common, even very common in some parts of range, e.g. Jordan; readily nests on buildings, even in cities... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pale Rock Martin (Ptyonoprogne obsoleta). 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 17 February 2020).