Purple Martin


Purple Martin

The Purple Martin is the largest swallow of North America and one of the most popular birds. It is broad-chested with stout, slightly hooked bill, short, forked tail and long tapered wings.

Both sexes measure about 7.5 - 7.9 inches in length, with 15.3 - 16.1 inches wingspan and 45 - 60 grams weight.

Males have an iridescent, dark purple- blue plumage overall, except for their wings and tails which are brown-black. Tail is moderately forked. Tufts of white feathers are concealed on body sides.

Females are duller, with gray forehead and hindneck, and dusky gray, finely streaked throat. Underpars is grayish with dark streaking, upper breast and sides are dark with pale gray edges.

Juveniles are mostly gray-brown on upperparts and throat, and the rest of underparts is gray-white. The 1st year male resembles adult female with some blue feathers on head and underparts. The 1st year female is browner above and paler below than adult.

They are usually fairly noisy, producing a wide variety of sounds.

CALL: The rich, throaty calls are described as “tchew-wew”, “pew-pew”, “choo” and “cher”. The alarm call is “zweet” or “zwrack”, whereas the territorial call is “hee-hee”.

SONG: During the courtship, the male produces a gurgling, guttural “croak” song. Utters a dawn song similar to the previous but softer.
Some different song structures are reported between western montane and eastern populations.

Feeds on various flying insects and wasps, winged ants and some bees, but mainly true bugs, flies, beetles, moths and butterflies, and also dragonflies. Some spiders are taken too.

Found in towns, farms, or semi-open country near water such as ponds and marshes. In the western part of the breeding range, it also frequents mountain forest and saguaro desert.

This species is usually more local in the west, and isolated colonies are established around forest edges or in clearings in mountain forest, but also in lowland saguaro desert.

In the east, it breeds in a variety of semi-open areas providing nest-sites near pond or river.

Breeds in eastern and mid-western North America, East of Rocky Mountains, from Southern Canada, South to Southern USA, and Central Mexican highlands.

The nest is built by both adults with twigs, stems and leaves, debris and mud. There is sometimes a raised rim in front, to protect the eggs.

The female lays 3-6 white eggs and incubates during 15-18 days.


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