The Purple Martin is one of the more popular of bird species that migrate to North America. These birds have special place in many peoples hearts, and yards, as there are more than one million people in North America that have set up housing for them.
Purple Martins are a member of the swallow family. They are also the largest members of that species, being about 7 1/2 inches long. Purple Martins migrate to North America from Brazil during their nesting season, arriving in the southern United States in January and February and eventually making their way north to Canada.
Purple Martins are aerial insectivores, meaning they only eat flying insects that they catch in flight. Their diet consists of flying insects such as dragonflies, flies, beetles, butterflies and such. Many people believe that they are prodigious consumers of mosquitos, however that is generally not the case. Purple Martins are daytime feeders, so they rarely actually encounter mosquitos, which are often only out at night.
A male and female pair of Purple Martins work together in building their nest and feeding their young. A female Purple Martin will generally lay between two and seven eggs in a clutch, one egg per day. The clutch incubates for a mere 15 days before hatching. The male and female will work continuously throughout the day to feed their young for about 25-34 days, at which time the young will begin to fledge, however they will still be dependent upon their parents for food for another week or two.
Purple Martins are quite particular about where they choose to nest. Many people become disappointed after they put a Purple Martin house up, and only have the Martins come for one year. There are many different factors that will contribute to whether or not the Martins will continue to come yearly, and nest at your location. However, if conditions are ideal and the Martins have a successful nesting, the will continue to come to the same location.
Improper housing, housing location, weather conditions and fear of predators can all contribute as to whether the Martins will continue to come to your home. Since housing Purple Martins is such a large hobby for many people, there are many different resources for you to find on how to properly set up your yard to attract Purple Martins and have them always coming back.
While it may take a little bit of effort to attract a group of Purple Martins to your home, the joy that can come from watching them is definitely worth it. They are a spectacular bird that deserve our attention and our care.