Purple Martin

The largest of the North American swallows, the Purple Martin is a popular tenant of backyard birdhouses. In fact, in eastern North America it has nested almost exclusively in nest boxes for more than 100 years.

Description

Sex Differences

Male all dark, female dingy below.

Male

Entirely glossy blue-black, above and below.

Female

Bluish black on back. Chest dingy gray brown. Belly paler dirty gray. Gray collar around back of neck.

Immature

Similar to female, but more drab and less bluish on back, underparts dirty white. Wing and tail feathers brown. First winter birds of both sexes resemble adult female. Yearling male has whiter belly and some dark blue feathers scattered on chest.

Similar Species

 

Sound

Song a series of musical chirps interspersed with raspy twitters.

Conservation Status

Some populations are undergoing a long-term decline. Not listed as threatened or endangered anywhere.

 

Purple Martin

Summer Range

Breeds from Alberta to New Brunswick, southward to central Texas and Florida. Also in scattered locations along Pacific Coast, and in the deserts and mountains of the southwestern United States into Mexico.

Winter Range

Winters in South America, in lowlands east of the Andes.

Habitat

Food

Flying insects.

Behavior

Foraging

Catches insects in flight.

Reproduction

Nest Type

Nests in birdhouses, hole in tree, hole in cactus, or crevice in cliff or building. Nest made of twigs, plant stems, mud, and grass.

Egg Description

Color: White.

Size: 21.31?26.98 mm x 16.13?18.66 mm
(.84?1.1 in x .64-.73 in)

Incubation period: 15-18 days.

Clutch Size

Usually 3-6 eggs. Range: 1-8.

Condition at Hatching

Helpless and naked.
Chicks fledge in 28-29 days.

Martins eat 2000 mosquitoes a day:

 

Myth:

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about purple martins is that they eat 'thousands of mosquitoes' every day. Many years ago, the phrase "Purple Martins can eat 2000 mosquitoes a day" was coined and it's stuck ever since.  Well, I hate to say it, but they are correct.  Purple Martins CAN eat 2000 mosquitoes a day.  Unfortunately, the truth is, they don't.  In fact, the statement is very carefully worded so that the uneducated public believes that if they buy a martin house and attract purple martins, then their mosquito woes are over.

Fact:

Just like any other creature of nature, martins are opportunistic eaters and will take the largest and most readily available food at the time, and according to the studies done over the years, mosquitoes are no where near the top of that list. In fact, some of the research showed that mosquitoes were less than 2 % of the martins' diet.

 

Now, let's dig a little deeper into this subject on our own.

 

First, let's put our heads together and stop to think about something.  When is it that mosquitoes become the worst?  

After dark!  

And, when do all daytime birds go to sleep?  

At dark!  

So, there's one reason the statement is false.

 

Second, mosquitoes like to stay close to the ground, where there's bushes to hide in and it's damp.  Martins like to eat high in the air, sometimes as high as 300 and 400 feet.  Another reason they don't cross paths.

 

Third, the favorite prey for a martin is a dragonfly, the mosquitoes' worst nightmare.  Dragonflies prey on mosquito larva, therefore, it could be said that martins are actually helping the mosquito out by killing it's aggressor.

 

And forth, the mosquitoes hang out in your back yard, in your bushes and near your house.  Martins are known to feed a rather large distance away from their home site so as not to attract the attention of predators.  Again, they do nothing for your own personal welfare as far as mosquitoes are concerned.


Now this is not intended to dissuade your beliefs about martins. I'm simply presenting the facts taken from studies done on the subject. This in no way detracts from the fact that these birds are still a joy to have around. If they weren't, I wouldn't be here trying to persuade you to try and attract them.

 

And, if you really have a mosquito problem I highly suggest you look into some other form of control.  Purple Martins are not the answer.  I have a fairly good colony of martins and I also have a fairly good population of mosquitoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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