La. passer sparrow, small
La. forma form, kind, species
La. hirundo a swallow
Gr. Prokne mythological King
Tereus, Philomela, and
Prokne were turned into
birds, a hoopoe, a
nightingale, and a swallow
La. subis a kind of bird
R. Bruce Horsfall
Largest swallow, about eight inches long with a twelve inch wingspan.
Dark steel-blue except for brownish black wings. Female is brownish
above and grayish underneath. Long thin speedy wings, moderately
Purple Martins inhabit most of temperate
North America from Mexico throughout the eastern U.S., north to
Newfoundland, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in parts of the
southwest and along the Pacific coast. Winters in northern South
Builds nests of twigs, leaves, grasses,
feathers, odd rubbish and sometimes mud, formerly in natural or
abandoned tree hollows and rock crevices, now mostly in the popular
martin houses or other nest boxes, gourds and a few in roof eaves.
Lays three to five
white eggs, which hatch after about two weeks incubation and young leave the nest in about
another three weeks.
Scatters out over the country catching
flying insects in graceful almost falcon like flight, each parent
returning to feed their young about one hundred times between sunup and
Social birds, greeting each other gurgling
and chattering, even visiting each
other's nests. Martins need monitoring and special care. Mobs of
English Sparrows sometimes drive the weaker colonies from their homes
which is why Martin houses should contain several homes or multiple nest
boxes should be mounted.
Colonies often just disappear
because they are driven away by pests or because they are attracted to a
nicer Martin house. They feed on available flying insects depending on
the area and seasonal fly hatches, moths, dragonflies, butterflies,
horse flies, and deer flies.
gonflies, butterflies, horse flies, and deer flies. They typically fly
and feed low in cooler, cloudy weather and higher on warm sunny days.
They migrate south about the middle of August in large flocks. In
southern U.S. they return as early as February and in Canada as late as
F. C. Hennessey
The preponderance of Purple Martins
now nest in artificially provided structures although there are rare
reports of pairs or colonies nesting in their historical homes in cliff
nooks, tree hollows and woodpecker holes, usually in the west.
Their popularity and reliance on martin houses has created one of the
great North American Pastimes: attracting colonies of dozens of martins
to apartment like birdhouses mounted high in wide open backyards.
Attracting & Caring
for Purple Martins
Enticing colonies to occupy martin houses is so
competitive enthusiasts utilize the latest research and tips - white
paint to keep houses cool in the hot sun, room sizes, entrance hole
sizes, specially designed holes shaped to deter intruders, railings to
protect the new born from falling, guards against crawling and flying
predators and more. Martins live in groups of single houses (gourds are
popular) and houses with as many as 30 rooms although they seem to
prefer somewhere in between the two extremes. Two or three apartment
nicely for large colonies.
Our only martin house design:
Most martins and
their broods return to the colony they occupied, were raised in, or to
another near by. Opening up rooms too early in spring invites
sparrow and starling mobs (Some martin houses come with door stops.)
Landlords of existing colonies learn when it's best. Use (roughly) the
map below of migration data superimposed over the USGS Breeding Bird
Those attempting to attract new colonies should watch for martins and
open rooms after the first martin sighting, continuing to watch closely
for the unwanted hoards which must be dealt with immediately.
discouraged if sparrow or starling nests need to be removed repeatedly. You will
discourage them. You will win.
Males returning to
formerly occupied homes immediately renew their claim.
The female selects
the room and both female and male build the nest two or three weeks
fight over already claimed rooms although the first claim usually
provides enough steadfastness to overcome intruders.
Martins need care. It's a job. Telescoping poles, door
stops, starling resistant entrances and removable nest trays make the
chores much easier. Easier means less likely to cause damage,
quicker, safer, and reduced burden means the landlord is more likely to
continue good responsible practice.
Metal poles, pole guards help prevent predators from climbing poles.
Rooms should be at least 7 inches
cubed and deeper if raptors are a threat. Where owls are numerous
door guards and extra deep rooms help prevent them from reaching into
rooms. If a room is nine or ten inches deep, Martins will place
the nest in the back furthest from the door. Paint houses white.
Some people provide sticks, straw,
mud and other materials for their martins. Some even improve nests
built by young inexperienced parents making sure floors are covered.
If mites infest nests they will feed
on the chicks blood - clean and replace the nests and you
might be saving their lives. If an egg is broken, remove it to
avoid unsanitary conditions.
Barn Swallow and Purple Martin, F. Schuyler Mathews