Swallows & Martins
Progne subis L 8" (20 cm)
The purple martin is the largest of the eight swallow species that breed in North America. It weighs 55 grams (1.75 ounces), is about 7 to 8 inches long, and has a 14-inch wingspan. The male is a dark glossy purple-blue; females and juveniles are gray below.
Martins are the earliest tropical-wintering migrant to return to the North American continent, reaching Florida in early January. Their northward advance coincides with the emergence of the flying insects they need to survive. They are found only in the New World, breed only in Canada, the United States, and parts of Mexico, and winter in South America (mainly Brazil).
Although martins originally nested in natural cavities and old woodpecker cavities throughout their breeding range, today, east of the Rockies, they nest only in human-supplied housing. They are locally common where suitable housing is available.
The male song is is a low-pitched liquid gurgling, the females a mix of chortle calls and downslurred whistles. Martins have a variety of calls, with the most common being a descending cherr.