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Learn about purple martins and how to make different kinds of purple martin houses.

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News & Events

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"News & Events" for the March 2012 Missouri Conservationist.

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Photo of a male purple martin perched on martin box

Purple Martin

Progne subis
Generations of Americans have greeted the annual return of these enchanting and endearing birds, with their cheerful calls, graceful flight, and faithful reappearance at a setup of martin boxes or gourd homes. Yet their populations have been declining. Find out what you can do to help these agile fliers.

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Photo of a female purple martin carrying stick at entrance to martin box

Purple Martin Female

Purple martins are the largest member of the swallow family in North America. Females are purplish blue above and light gray below. Although originally cavity-nesters, martins now rely almost entirely on nest boxes provided by humans.

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Photo of a purple martin in flight

Purple Martin In Flight

This photo is blurry because purple martins are fast, agile fliers. At summer’s end, they form large flocks and leave the United States, flying clear to southern Brazil to escape freezing weather. This bird might have spent its winter in São Paulo.

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Photo of a male purple martin perched on martin box

Purple Martin Male

Adult male purple martins are glossy, purplish blue overall and may appear black in low light. Their song is a gurgling, gutteral warble. The call is a two-note “tchew-tchew” or “chur-chur.”

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photo of a purple martin perched at nest box

Purple Martin Mania

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Purple martin survival depends on gracious – and tenacious – human landlords.

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Photo of purple martin nest with eggs

Purple Martin Nest With Eggs

Purple martins usually produce only one brood per year. Competition with introduced European starlings and house sparrows, which aggressively evict and sometimes kill young and adult martins, contributes to an overall long-term decline in martin populations.

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Photo of two male purple martins on a perch

Purple Martins

Generations of Americans have greeted the annual return of purple martins, enchanting and endearing birds with cheerful calls, graceful flight, and faithful reappearance at martin boxes or gourd homes each spring.

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