This Troublesome Pair is another animal one, so it kind of goes with mink or minke and maybe even mandrel or mandrill. So, what is the difference between a marten and a martin? Well, one of them’s an animal and one of them’s a bird …
The marten is the animal – it’s the weaselly mammal that lives in the coniferous and northern deciduous forests of Europe, Asia and North America. I call them weaselly; they aren’t weasels, but they are related to weasels, mink and ferrets, as well as wolverines and badgers (I didn’t know a wolverine was a real thing. I feel a wolf or wolverine post coming on now!). In the UK, we have pine martens in Scotland and there’s a European pine marten too, as well as a Japanese variety.
The martin, then, is the bird. The name is used for a subset of the swallow family, which are found all around the world, apart from on Antarctica. There’s a very detailed Wikipedia article about how exactly the swallows are divided up into river martins and everything else – we probably know house martins and sand martins best, but there’s a lot of them around. Apparently, house and purple martins have developed a habit of only nesting around houses and in special nesting boxes, so hardly ever nest truly in the wild any more.
So, no pine martins or house martens, please!