The Purple Martin is a beautiful migratory songbird, strong and fast in flight, and the largest North American swallow. The Purple Martin spends its winters in the Amazon River Basin and its summers in North America. While traveling north in the spring the Purple Martins establish new colonies and also return to old housing to breed, raise their young and eventually migrate back to South America for the winter season. The cycle repeats yearly.
Purple Martins are the only North American Species of songbird entirely dependent upon human-supplied nesting cavities for reproduction. People all over North America have committed their springs and summers to providing nesting grounds in their backyards for their visiting purple martin friends. In fact, whether a Purple Martin flock nests in an area is largely determined by the availability of Martin houses. Martins will nest in hanging gourds, one-room boxes on top of poles, or in multi-room apartment boxes ranging in size from 10 to 200 rooms.
Not only are they talented insect eaters, they are brilliant flyers. As the largest member of the swallow family, their large wings give them most of their 8 inch size. Purple Martins are known for their beautiful warbling songs. They have many varieties of tones and sounds, and males even make a unique clicking sound at the end of their song.
Purple Martins are talented insect eaters. They catch all of their insect prey while in flight. Additionally, it gets all its water that way too. It skims the surface of a pond and scoops up the water with its lower bill. Common items in their diet include: flies, horseflies, wasps, bees, beetles, mayflies, stinkbugs, plant hoppers, grasshoppers, cicadas, and moths.
Since Martins feed solely on flying insects, they are extremely vulnerable to weather conditions that affect insect availability. Prolonged bad weather, such as rain, snow, cool temperatures, and/or heavy winds, all reduce or eliminate insect flight. If poor weather persists for more than 2 or 3 days, martins begin to die of starvation. Additionally, they are preyed upon my owls, eagles, and crows.
Purple Martins are monogamous, meaning that they only mate with one other bird. The male and female cooperate equally in building the nest out of mud, grass and twigs. The female lays two to seven pure-white eggs at a rate of one egg per day. The female incubates the clutch for approximately fifteen days, then the young hatch. The parents both feed the young continuously for a period of 26-32 days until the young fledge. The young continue to be dependent on their parents for food and training for an additional one to two weeks after fledging.