Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin
(Progne subis)

Order:  Passeriformes
Family:  Hirundinidae

Photo by JJ Cadiz [CC 3.0]

Purple Martin Information

Length:  7 - 8.5"

Habitat:  In the Northeast, open or semi-open areas such as farmland, meadows, fields, parks, and residential areas - usually near open water.

Diet:  Mainly flying insects, including bees, wasps, flies, and dragonflies. Also, some spiders and some insects found on the ground.

  Song and calls of the Purple Martin

Additional Information

Purple Martin
Habitat, diet, feeding behavior, nesting, migration, and conservation status of this bird. Includes range map, photos, and songs and calls. (From Audubon Field Guide)

Female Purple Martin in Flight

Female Purple Martin in Flight

By Dori [CC SA 3.0]

Male Purple Martin in Flight

Purple Martin in Flight

© Mike Danzenbaker

Purple Martin
Identification Tips

  • Tiny bill
  • Largest swallow
  • Most often seen flying
  • Will nest communally at martin houses in residential and agricultural areas
Adult Male
  • Dark purple plumage, usually appears black
  • Forked tail
  • Immature males similar to female but may be splotched with dark purple
Adult Female
  • Dark gray upperparts with some purple coloration
  • Whitish underparts with gray breast band and throat with some speckling on sides and belly
  • Forked tail
  • Immature plumages similar to female

Similar Species

The male Purple Martin is easily told from other swallows by its entirely dark plumage. It is vaguely similar to the starling but has a smaller bill, longer wings and a darker plumage.

Female Purple Martins are similar to Bank and Northern Rough-winged Swallows but are larger, and flap more slowly. At close range, the darker upperparts of the martin are evident.

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Purple Martin Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)