Purple Martins

Purple Martins are fairly common birds, especially in the southeastern U.S., but their numbers declined by approximately 0.5% per year, resulting in a cumulative decline of about 25% between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 9.3 million and rates them 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. Canadian populations of aerial insectivores are experiencing sharp declines and the cause is not clear.  In Ontario alone, the Purple Martin population has been declining by over seven percent annually, since monitoring began in 1970. You can help to replenish populations by putting up a single Purple Martin house, so a miniature neighborhood of birds can develop in your backyard.  Usually dark, glossy-blue males and brown females will peer from the entrances and chirp from the rooftops all summer long in your Ontario backyard.  These aerial acrobatics will perform right in front of you as they snap up flying insects and feed their young. Later in the Summer, they will gather in large flocks called roosts to head south.  If you are looking to find out more information about their identification, biologymigrationmanagement, or martin housing, you will be able to find it here.

In 2016,  Nature Canada decided to put forth a tremendous effort to re-establish and increase the number of Purple Martins in Ontario by putting up Martin housing units called T-14s throughout the province.

Under the direction of Mr. Ted Cheskey, the project has been going on for over 5 years. More information about this Nature Project can be found at Purple Martin Project.

A Quick Profile

With an average length of  20 cm and a wingspan of up to 38 cm, and a weight of 45-60 g the purple martin is the largest among the 90 species in the family called Hirundinidae.

Adult males are entirely black with a glossy steel blue sheen, the only swallow in North America with such coloration. Adult females are dark on top with some steel blue sheen and lighter underparts. Adults have slightly forked tails. 

Purple martins are quite vocal. They are known to chirp, chortle, rattle, and croak. The males have a gurgling and guttural courtship song, a dawn song, and even a subsong used at the end of the breeding season.