Purple Martins

With Spring’s early arrival and us returning to the cottage this weekend. It will be time to head back up on the ladders and put the birdhouses back in the Tree of Life. I’m excited to see if the Purple Martins have returned to the lake yet and because I talk about them so much in my blog, I thought it was time to share them with our Bloggers.

So let me give you a little education on my favorite birds.

The Purple Martins are also known by the species name of Progne subis. They are the largest member of the Swallow Family in North America, yet they are actually a very small bird. They look purple, but, they are not truly purple. In fact, their dark blackish-blue feathers have an iridescent sheen which causes an refraction of light giving them a bright blue to navy blue or deep purple appearance.

Adult males are entirely dark with glossy steel blue sheen making them brilliant in color. Adult females are darker on top with some steel blue sheen, and lighter underparts. It takes Purple Martins two years to achieve the full colors of adult life.

Purple martins are coming, and they need you to get their homes ready |  Home/Garden | theadvocate.com
The female is to the left and the male is to the right.

The Purple Martins are migrators who come from South America and return each Spring to North America to breed. They have specific areas in the Untied States and Canada, along water areas that have an abundance of their favorite food, fly insects. Each flock returns to their place of birth each year.

Their migration is watched by many Bird Watching Societies, especially the Purple Martin Societies, but also the Aviation World as when they mirage they do in such a large flock that if a plane was to fly into them, they could cause mechanical failure which could bring down a plane. When they take-off to migrate their activity can be detected on Doppler Radar as rings.

Their migration North is very predictable following the warmth of Spring starting as early as January in the lower Untied States and in April in Canada. They retuning South when the young have reached flying capacity to make the journey South in the same pattern following the maturity of the young.

When they arrive they will nest in the same bird houses that they have used the present year if its still available which is first inspected by the male. If another bird try’s to take that house they will case them out. This also goes for trees, or any other area they deem as their home.

Both parents build the nest. Both birds sit on the eggs and feed the young. They are very loyal parents who are very protective of their nest. The Purple Martins little size does not stop them from dive bombing at a human, animals or other birds who comes near their nest and they will fight to the death to protect it. They also will flock and attack in groups to protect the nests. Upset one and you’ve upset the others.

On the other side, they will build trust with humans. If you place a breeding box for them and leave the nest alone they will build their homes close to humans and will allow you the privilege of watching them coming in and out to feed the young. With a little luck you might be present when the young learn to first fly some where between twenty-six to thirty-two day after hatching.

They are phenomenal flyers who catch all their food in the air as their main diet is flying bugs, with the nasty mosquito being on their list. Just another reason I love this little bird, and why farmers encourage them to nest as they also keep down bug damage to their crops while not harming the landscape.

Once the young are out of the nest and catching their own food, they begin to practice for the flight back South. This is an amazing process to watch as they sit on the telephone wires all taking off, swarming and diving in the air and then re-landing. They learn to do this in harmony.

When the large groups of young are flocking together in harmony is when they will one day all together take flight and leave to head South.

I have yet to be at the cottage when this takes place in the end of July to August. I keep hoping that one day I will be present to witness this. The Purple Martin is quiet the chatty little birds who sing and talk most of the day. How I know they are gone, is the silence they leave behind.

Before having the Love Shack, I had never seen one of theses birds. Now that we have the cottage, we have gone from having one family nest in a woodpecker hole in the Tree of Life to now having several nest in our Birdie Condos we are building.

This year we have another new house made to go in with the collection and I am presently trying to get another painted for this season.

These little birds give me great pleasure to watch sitting in my favorite chair out the window or while sitting on the deck. They have become a personal project for us to help live in harmony with and I have now learned why a person could be obsessed with something so little and yet beautiful, and good for the environment.

This years addition to the collection. After all every community has to have a church.

10 thoughts on “Purple Martins

  1. First time I hear of this name. They are gorgeous. It’s crazy to think that the males are the brighter/prettier ones in the bird kingdom.

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    1. I believe Mother Nature designed them that way to keep the female safer for reproduction. No offense to the male population but their part of reproduction is quite simple, it’s the female doing all the time and work.


  2. I also love Purple Martins – when we sold our house and lived with our daughters family for two months before moving to SC-NC – the neighbor had a Purple Martin birdhouse – I explained to my son in law what they were diving all around – esp. at dusk and how they controlled the Mosquito’s – he was impressed by them and said now I have learned another nature thing! LOL But you added a lot of things I did not know – Now I too know some NATURE THINGS! LOL Thank you and keep up the good blogs! Tom

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    1. This now makes you my kindred spirit. Five years ago I had never seen one of them. Now I hang out with them and modify birdhouses for them. They are one of the first pleasures of Spring for me. I’m glad I taught you something.


  3. I love your little church birdhouse. It is amazing. Last year I had made a ceramic birdhouse and as of the last 2 weeks there is a pair of eastern bluebirds claiming it for nesting. I am so in love with watching them each morning. I have never seen a purple martin but I am a bird enthusiast and would love to someday see one for myself.

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    1. Thank you. I have this idea of filing the other tree on the front of the cottage with birdhouses too. I figure at one or two a year I will be at it a while. I always liked birds but now I think I appreciate them more. I am not sure if it’s an age thing or taking the time to see them. when we drive down I see the hawks and eagles, it’s become part of my drive to look up to see them.

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