African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina


Justification of Red List category
This species is classified as Data Deficient because, although it is recorded quite regularly, its distribution and movements remain very poorly known and very few colonies have ever been found. Colonies are very vulnerable to disturbance and exploitation, and the species may prove to be threatened.

Population justification
This is a poorly known species and no population estimates are available.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to hunting pressure and potentially losses to flooding (del Hoyo et al. 2004).

Distribution and population

Pseudochelidon eurystomina breeds in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (middle and upper Congo River and lower Ubangi River) (Chapin 1953), Gabon (Gamba [Keith et al. 1992], Animba near Port-Gentil and, recently discovered, near Libreville itself; also potentially throughout the coastal areas south of Point Pongara, as far as the border with the Congo ([P. Christy in litt. 1999]) and Congo (several hundred birds discovered in 1996 in the Conkouati Reserve; and at least one colony at Tchimpounga NR discovered 2011) (Dowsett-Lemaire 1997a, Maisels and Cruickshank 2000, Wilson and Sharp unpublished data). The total population size is unknown; in the late 1980s, it appeared to be common, if local, and large numbers have been seen on migration in Gabon (Turner and Rose 1989), such as the Ogooué River and Makokou where, in 1997, a flock of c.15,000 were observed (Sinclair 1998), and a mixed flock of this species and Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus at Igeula, Loango, in September 2005, was estimated to number 100,000 birds (Barnes 2005). However it is particularly poorly known in the DRC and it is not known if there is any relationship between the birds breeding in the DRC and those breeding in coastal areas of Gabon and Congo (P. Christy in litt. 1999). Birds from the Congo migrate westwards across Gabon (main passage from June to early September) (Erard 1981), arriving at Gamba on the coast from mid-August onwards and on the coast of the Congo from mid-September (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 1991). After breeding in the coastal areas, they depart from late October-November (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 1991) with the main passage back across Gabon from December to March (Erard 1981). At Odzala in northern Congo, birds have been observed flying west towards coastal breeding grounds in August, returning in late January, but the numbers involved are much lower than those observed in Gabon (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 1997). In 1994, three or four birds were observed on passage at Ngotto in the Central African Republic (Dowsett et al. 1999b).


It breeds in large colonies (up to c.800 individuals) along forested rivers, on islands with sandy shores, on beach ridges in coastal savanna and sandy grassland areas within coastal forest-savanna mosaic (Turner and Rose 1989, S. Sharp in litt. 2016). Nest holes are dug into sandbars which are exposed when river levels are low (Turner and Rose 1989). Outside the breeding season it roosts in reed-beds or riverine vegetation (P. Christy in litt. 1999).


In the 1950s, the species was caught and eaten in large quantities in the DRC by the local population (Chapin 1953), and this practice could be on the increase (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 1997). Breeding colonies in river sandbars are liable to flooding (Keith et al. 1992), and the incidence of flooding could increase with trends in deforestation. Colonies in coastal savanna may also be prone to human-set fires (S. Sharp in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions UnderwaySurveys have been undertaken at Tchimpounga NR (cosatal Congo) and further work on the breeding ecology of the species there will hopefully continue (S. Sharp in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys, particularly in D.R. Congo, to determine true range and abundance. Regularly monitor the species at known migration sites in Gabon to determine trends. Research the extent and nature of the threat caused by hunting. Protect large areas of forest at key sites, in both strictly protected areas and community led multiple use areas.


Text account compilers
Mahood, S., Shutes, S., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.

Dowsett, R., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Maisels, F. & Sharp, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Pseudochelidon eurystomina. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/african-river-martin-pseudochelidon-eurystomina on 21/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 21/02/2024.