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Merlin Bird ID

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    Purple Martin

    Silhouette SwallowsSwallows

    Purple Martin

    Progne subis
    • ORDER: Passeriformes
    • FAMILY: Hirundinidae
    Basic Description

    Putting up a Purple Martin house is like installing a miniature neighborhood in your backyard. In the East, dark, glossy-blue males and brown females will peer from the entrances and chirp from the rooftops all summer. In the West, martins mainly still nest the old-fashioned way—in woodpecker holes. Our largest swallows, Purple Martins perform aerial acrobatics to snap up flying insects. At the end of the breeding season they gather in big flocks and make their way to South America.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Purple MartinRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    In eastern North America during the summer, look for Purple Martins around martin houses, the miniature condominiums that many people put up in yards. The birds are more challenging to find in the West, where they nest in woodpecker holes in dead snags. Foraging Purple Martins hunt insects higher in the air than other swallows, but in the afternoon and evening they may feed low and close to nest sites. In late summer you might see enormous roosts of Purple Martins, particularly in the Southeast as they prepare to cross the Gulf of Mexico.

    Other Names
    • Golondrina Purpúrea (Spanish)
    • Hirondelle noire (French)

    Backyard Tips

    You can put out crushed eggshells to give the martins a source of grit for digesting insect exoskeletons.

    Put up a Purple Martin house in your backyard, and you just might be treated to a close-up look at these engaging birds all through the breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on All About Birdhouses, where you'll find plans for building a Purple Martin nest box.

    • Cool Facts