Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Purple Martin

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Hirundinidae | [latin] Progne subis | [UK] Purple Martin | [FR] Hirondelle pourpree | [DE] Purpurschwalbe | [ES] Golondrina azul americana | [NL] Purperzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Progne subis NA, MA widespread e SA
Progne subis arboricola
Progne subis hesperia
Progne subis subis

Physical charateristics

The largest North American swallow. Male : Uniformly blue-black above and below ; no other swallow is dark-bellied. Female : Light-bellie
d; throat and breast grayish, often with a faint collar. Glides in circles, alternating quick flaps and glides; often spreads its tail.

Listen to the sound of Purple Martin

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/P/Purple Martin.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 39 cm wingspan max.: 41 cm
size min.: 19 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 18 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 7  


North America, Middle America : widespread


Towns, farms, semi-open country near water; in West, also mountain forest, saguaro desert. In
the East, breeds in any kind of semi-open area where nest sites are provided, especially near a pond or river. More local in the West, with isolated colonies breeding around woodland edges, clearings in mountain forest, and lowland desert.


Males return to nesting areas first in spring, establish nesting territories. Usually nests in colonies, especially in East, where almost all are in multiple-roomed nest boxes or hollow gourd
s put up for them. Western martins may nest in looser colonies or as isolated pairs. Male will sometimes have more than one mate.
Natural sites are in cavities, mostly old woodpecker holes, in trees (or in giant cactus in Southwest). In the East, most martins now use nest boxes. Sometimes nests in holes in buildings or cliffs. Nest (built by both sexes) is cup of leaves, grass, twi
gs, debris, and usually mud. Nest may have raised dirt rim in front to help keep eggs from rolling out.
Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-8. White. Incubation is by female, 15-18 days.
Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 26-31 days after hatching.

Feeding habits

Feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including many wasps, winged ants, and bees; also many true bugs, flies, beetles, moths, and butterflies. Dragonflies may be important in diet. Also eats some spiders. The old cl
aim of martins eating “2,000 mosquitoes a day” apparently has no basis in fact.
Forages almost entirely in the air, gliding and wheeling in graceful flight. May forage very low over water, or quite high at times. Occasionally walks about on ground to pick up insects, perhaps mostly in harsh weather.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Purple Martin status Least Concern


Southern Canada to northern Mexico, Gulf States. Winters South America. Migration:
A long-distance migrant, most wintering in Amazon Basin. Returns very early in spring in the East (often in February in southern states), usually later in spring in the West (mainly April and May).

Distribution map

Purple Martin distribution range map

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