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Purple Martin

Progne subis

Length: 8 inches Wingspan: 16 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Forked tail, pointed wings, iridescent dark purple body (male)

Purple Martin - Progne subisPurple Martins are one of the home-birders' favorites, with the multi-cavity Purple Martin house a familiar sight in residential areas throughout the eastern half of the United States. As natural nest sites have become more rare, most Purple Martins now nest in these artificial sites.  The practice of attracting Purple Martins through the placement of artificial nest sites has its roots with Native American tribes, who once attracted the birds by placing gourd homes near tribal communitites.

Habitat: Can be found in a wide-variety of semi-open habitats, as long as adequate nest sites are available. 

Diet: Exclusively insects.  Primarily flying insects, but occasionally spiders and other insects as well.

Behavior: Forages by catching insects in mid-air, rarely by walking on the ground.

Nesting: May and June

Song: Purple Martin song 

Migration: Summers throughout much of the United States and southern Canada.  A long-distance migrant in the fall, with most wintering in South America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Purple Martin sightings

Similar Species: Tree Swallow

Birdhouses: Will use specially made Purple Martin houses, as well as other birdhouses.

Feeders: Breeding birds will attend for broken eggshells prior to nesting.

Conservation Status: Declining in many parts of its range, possibly due to competition with European Starlings and House Sparrows for suitable nest sites.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Purple Martin

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Purple Martin"

3) Purple Martin

Photo Information: Photo taken on April 22nd, 2012 - Near Hartford, South Dakota - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Purple Martin - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the northeastern part of the state.  Uncommon elsewhere in the east, accidental in the far west.

Additional Purple Martin Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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