About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Purple Martins

Purple Martin Progne subis
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Swallows (Hirundinidae)

Description:
The largest of the North American swallows, Purple Martins have glossy, purple-black plumage. Adult females are less colorful, with gray necks, foreheads, and underparts, but nearly as purple on their backs as adult males. A group of purple martins are collectively known as a "colony" of martins. Native Americans hung up empty gourds for these birds to nest in before Europeans arrived in North America and now Martins nest almost exclusively in birdhouses.

General:
The most successful occupancy occurs when the houses are placed within 100’ of human houses and at least 40’ away from tree lines, in full sun most of the day, and usually near water. A height of 12’ to 20’ for mounting a purple martin house is recommended so the birds can make a grand swooping entrance and exit from their house.

When choosing a Purple Martin house, be sure that it has the following features:
• Easy access for monitoring and cleaning.
• A light color exterior.
• Starling resistant entrance hole with height dimension 1 & 3/16"
• A compartment size of at least 6” x 6” x 6.”
• Pole that allows the house to be raised and lowered.
• Adequate ventilation and drainage.
• Made from rainproof and durable materials.

Behavior:
Purple Martins live in colonies, and their social antics can result in an endlessly entertaining summer. They often will dive and swirl around in the sky as they feed in flight upon flying insects such as wasps, moths, flies, grasshoppers, and bees. They also eat mosquitoes but perhaps not as many as rumored. In late spring adult males will perform the "Dawn Song" singing loudly while soaring high above the colony to attract other birds.

To track the Purple Martins as they migrate from South America to Michigan go to purplemartin.org.
Or for more information visit:

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