Purple Martin Progne subis
Sound (228 KB)
8 inches (20 cm)
• Male: Glossy purplish-blue overall
• Black wings and tail
• Female: grayish below with whitish belly
• Tiny bill
• Largest swallow
• Most often seen flying
• Will nest communally at martin houses in residential and agricultural areas
• Dark purple plumage, usually appears black
• Forked tail
• Immature males similar to female but may be splotched with dark purple
• Dark gray upperparts with some purple coloration
• Whitish underparts with gray breast band and throat with some speckling on sides and belly
• Forked tail
• Immature plumages similar to female
• The male Purple Martin is easily told from other swallows by its entirely dark plumage. It is vaguely similar to the starling but has a smaller bill, longer wings and a darker plumage. Female Purple Martins are similar to Bank and Northern Rough-winged Swallows but are larger, and flap more slowly. At close range, the darker upperparts of the martin are evident.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Open country, savanna, rural areas, especially near water. 1-3 broods. Mating system is monogamous.
NEST: In tree hole, cliff niche, or other cavity, often in birdhouse (especially in e); of grass, leaves, mud, feathers, occasionally with dirt rim to keep eggs from rolling out. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: 4-5 White, unmarked. 1.0" (24 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Female incubates. Incubation takes 15-18 days. Development is altricial (immobile, downless, eyes closed, fed). Young leave the nest after 26-31 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Occasionally feeds on ground taking ants and other insects.
CONSERVATION: Winters in South America e of Andes from Venezuela s to n Bolivia and s e Brazil. Blue List 1975-81, Special Concern 1982-86. Forestry practice of removing standing dead trees has greatly reduced availability of natural nest sites; readily accepts colonial nest boxes. Currently the focus of a concerted effort to locate and monitor all active breeding colonies.
NOTES: Usually nest in colonies. Occasionally polygynous. Often drinks and bathes on the wing. Generally, very few birds return to their natal colony to breed. House Sparrows and starlings compete for nest cavities. Gather in enormous premigratory communal roosts (up to 100,000 birds) at end of summer.
Progne subis PURPLE MARTIN. Open and partly open areas, often near water or in towns. From sw British Columbia, w Washington, w Oregon, n,c and sc Calif., nc,se Arizona, c Utah, se Idaho, w Colorado s to sc New Mexico; also ne,ec British Columbia and nc Alberta e across s Canada to s Quebec, n Maine, New Brunswick and c Nova Scotia (perhaps Newfoundland) and s in the Great Plains to wc,s Texas, Gulf coast and s Florida, exc. Florida Keys. Mexico in Baja Calif., Isla Tiburónó, w,ne Sonora, sw Chihuahua to w Durango; c Mexican highlands from s Nuevo León, c San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato and n,c Michoacán.. Winters widely in South America except w and s areas from Ecuador s to Chile and s Argentina and ne Brazil. Closely related to cryptoleuca, dominicensis and chalybea.