Spotting Purple Martins
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Purple Martins Return
The return of Purple Martins is highly anticipated each year, and preparations are made in advance to ensure a clean home is waiting. Purple Martins typically begin to return in early March. Once the flies start to come back, the martins will soon follow. The adult Purple Martins often arrive first, followed within a few weeks by the younger martins. Purple Martins have a high level of site fidelity, so if their home is still available and their breeding ground was safe the year prior, the birds will return to their previous year's home.
Purple Martin Characteristics
Purple Martins are a beautiful bird with distinguishing characteristics, but they can easily be mistaken for their predatory enemies, the starlings and sparrows. Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family, which is an aerial feeding bird that has worldwide cosmopolitan distribution, with the exception of Antarctica.
Male and female martins have different plumages, although the different patterns do not emerge fully until adulthood. The image above shows a male martin on the left and a female martin on the right. Take note of how the male has a dark blue/black coloring and a larger body size. His coloring is unmistakable, and is the reason behind how the purple martin got its name. The female is smaller, with a less uniform coloring and a pale gray underside. The adult female tends to have subtle purple throughout the backside, while the younger females are typically more brown.
Purple Martins have a wide and flat black beak, a forked tail, and broad, knife like wings. Their aggressive and powerful enemy is the European Starling, which possesses a long and pointed yellow beak and sharp claws. The threatening house sparrow also has a dangerous beak, heavy and conical shaped, and capable of crushing with ease.
Purple Martin Behavior
Male martins are fun to watch as they interact with their female counterparts. Males will tend to fly just behind the females as more of a territorial guard to ensure that no one else fertilizes his female. The male martin also enjoys chasing after the female in an attempt to frequently copulate. His song is the open beak throaty song that Purple Martins are popular for.
Purple Martins need to stay where the insects fly, since their diet depends completely on flying insects. Purple Martins are not picky as to what they eat, as long as it flies. They consume mosquitoes, ladybugs, wasps, dragonflies, moths and more. To ensure an engaging relationship with your martins, keep your Purple Martin bird house near where you spend time. The martins will become used to your presence throughout your daily activities, and will be less likely to fly away when you want a closer look. You will be able to enjoy the purple martin's songs and activities in close proximity.
So enjoy your Purple Martins when they come, and keep an eye on our little friends to ensure their safety from sparrows and starlings. Becoming familiar with their enemy is fundamental when owning a purple martin house. There is also great enjoyment in watching your martins as they mature, and their colors and sizes change as they grow from young birds to adult birds. There is a large availability of Purple Martin Information to help ensure proper care and maintenance of what some would consider America's most wanted bird.