Swallow-like Birds

Purple Martin Purple Martin
Progne subis


7-8 1/2" (18-22 cm). Our largest swallow. Adult male dark steel-blue. Female and immature male duller above, pale gray below. Overhead, similar in shape to European Starling, but flight more buoyant and gliding.


Liquid gurgling warble. Also a penetrating tee-tee-tee.


Open woodlands, residential areas, and agricultural land.

Purple Martin Female


4 or 5 white eggs in a mass of grass and other plant material placed in a cavity-sometimes a hole in a tree or a martin house with many separate compartments, where the birds nest in a colony.


Breeds from British Columbia, central interior Canada, and Nova Scotia southward, but absent from interior western mountains and Great Basin. Winters in tropics.


The custom of erecting a martin house to attract these beneficial birds was practiced by the early settlers and, before them, by the southern Indian tribes, who hung clusters of hollow gourds in trees near their gardens. In other areas, the species nested in tall dead trees riddled with woodpecker holes, but these original colonies never reached the size-as many as 200 pairs-of colonies found in large martin houses today. In the West, it tends not to occupy martin houses, preferring the open countryside or downtown areas, and is becoming scarcer, probably due to competition with European Starlings for nest sites.