Purple Martins

Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family in North America.  They spend the winter in Brazil and migrate to North America to breed.  East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins breed exclusively in human supplied housing.  This is an adult male Purple Martin, with glossy purple-black plumage.

Purple Martins take two years for both sexes to acquire their adult plumage. Subadults are sexually mature, and typically breed. In this picture, the one in the center is an adult male, the other two may both be subadults or could be a a female and a subadult. It is difficult to identify the exact age and sex of these birds unless you get very up close and personal.

This shot was taken by my husband, and has excellent detail.  Nonetheless, I am not sure if these two are females or subadults of either gender.

I'm fairly certain this is an adult female martin.  Purple Martins all look as if they have nasty dispositions and are about to attack, but that is a human interpretation of the bird's facial expressions. 

It is hard to tell if these two like each other or are about to attack each other!  I'm not even sure if they are a pair or a parent and child.

These are the Purple Martin houses at the Daniel Webster Audubon Sanctuary in Marshfield, MA.  Note how the nest boxes resemble gourds.  It is thought that Purple Martins started nesting in gourds centuries ago, when Native Americans used hanging gourds to attract the birds to their villages.   The reason they wanted Purple Martins around was because the birds eat mosquitoes, which is still a good reason to attract Purple Martins to your yard today!

1 comment:

  1. I love the sequence! I am glad to see that the Purple Martins in Marshfield are thriving, particularly after the disastrous failure at the PRWR on Plum Island last year.


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