Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Pale Sand Martin (Riparia diluta)


French: Hirondelle pâle German: Fahluferschwalbe Spanish: Avión pálido
Other common names: Pale Martin

Cotile diluta

Sharpe and Wyatt

, 1893,

Chimkent, north of Tashkent, Kazakhstan


Formerly considered conspecific with R. riparia, but differs morphologically and vocally, and found in separate breeding colonies in wide area of sympatry (full extent of which not yet clear); separation at species level supported by genetic data#R. Allocation to present species of race indica, which differs from nominate in breeding habitat, has been questioned#R; may be better included in R. riparia. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. d. gavrilovi Loskot, 2001 – NE Kazakhstan and C Siberia E to R Lena, and Cisbaikalia S to Altai and Tuva Republic; winters S Asia.
  • R. d. transbaykalica Goroshko, 1993 – Transbaikalia; winters S Asia.
  • R. d. diluta (Sharpe & Wyatt, 1893) – S & SE Kazakhstan, N Kyrgyzstan, E & S Uzbekistan and W Tajikistan; winters NW India and Nepal.
  • R. d. indica Ticehurst, 1916 – N Pakistan and NW India.
  • R. d. fohkienensis (La Touche, 1908) – C & E China; winters S China and possibly N Indochina.
  • R. d. tibetana Stegmann, 1925 – SW China (Xizang-Qinghai Plateau); winters in India and W Bhutan.
  • Descriptive notes

    12 cm. Nominate race is pale grey brown above, remiges and rectrices darker brown, tail shallowly forked; underparts dingy white, weakly defined pale brown breastband;... read more


    Song is a short, grating twittering; when flying around breeding colony, makes a hard “ret” or “... read more


    Mainly open country, often near water; in area of sympatry with R. riparia in arid steppe... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet not fully documented, probably similar to that of R. riparia. Forages in groups, and mixes with other hirundines and swifts (... read more


    Nov–May, mainly Feb–Apr. Colonial, usually small colonies, up to c. 150–200 nests. Nest in burrow in bank, e.g. along... read more


    N populations migratory, but wintering sites poorly known; nominate race probably winters mainly in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common. Both breeding and non-breeding distributions poorly known, require further study. Breeding sites probably local and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A. (2020). Pale Sand Martin (Riparia diluta). 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 26 February 2020).