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Species Description

Purple Martin

Progne subis


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae


The male is glossy blue-purple, with black wings, bill, legs, and feet. The female is glossy blue-purple above and charcoal gray below, with black wings, bill, legs, and feet. 20 cm (8 in) in length. The Purple Martin has broad, pointed wings and a notched tail.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in late March, peaks in mid-April through May, and extends into early July. Breeding habitat is associated with water and open areas for foraging. These birds are colonial nesters, usually with many pairs nesting in the same area and returning to the same location over many years. Natural nesting situations are in cavities of snags, trees, or crevices usually about 5 feet or higher above the ground. Now many birds accept artificial nesting boxes in the form of martin houses or gourds. The nest is built by both adults out of grass, leaves, and other plant materials. The female lays 3-8 (usually 4-5) eggs that she incubates for 15-18 days. The young are altricial and fledge 26-31 days after hatching.

Natural History

Non-breeding habitat is similar to breeding habitat. The diet of this species includes mostly flying insects. The Purple Martin catches the insects while in flight. This species also drinks and bathes while in flight, skimming low over the surface of the water and scooping up water in its bill or diving into the water and resurfacing to bathe. This species is migratory and forms large flocks for migration.


Purple Martin Region Map During the breeding season, the Purple Martin occurs throughout the eastern United States, in the Southwest, and in western coastal states. It winters in South America. This species can be seen throughout Georgia during the breeding season.

Conservation Status

The Purple Martin is not listed as requiring special conservation attention in any portion of its southeastern range. Two non-native species, the House Sparrow and the European Starling, commonly compete with the Purple Martin for nesting sites. The increase in man-made nesting sites has helped increase nesting opportunities for this species.

Similar Species

The species with the body shape most similar to that of the Purple Martin is the Tree Swallow. The Tree Swallow is completely white on its throat, neck, breast, and belly, coloration which differentiates it from the Purple Martin. The Tree Swallow is also much smaller than the Purple Martin.