Purple Martin Slideshow

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In the eastern half of this continent, Purple Martins (Progne subis) are totally dependent upon man to provide housing. Due to their dependence on humans, good stewardship practices are critical to increasing their declining numbers. House placement and monitoring are essential to success.

Purple Martin Facts
Species: Purple Martin
Latin Name: Progne subis
Size: 7 1/2 inches, 1.9 oz.

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Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family. Their prey consists of flying insects; contrary to popular belief, their diet does not include mosquitoes.

Purple Martin Facts
Mating: primarily monogamous

Nest Style: cavity, grass, mud, leaves, feathers

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These Super Gourds are an excellent example of houses with features which increase productivity. The gourd's swinging action discourages many species from nesting in them. They are dry and roomy, and the absence of a perch makes them inaccessible to some birds that must first land before entering. The canopy not only serves as a rain guard but also has a ribbed non-skid perch. The use of gourds for Martin housing pre-dates Colonial times. Native Americans used gourds for storage and Purple Martins began nesting in them when they were hung up to dry. Indians appreciated the song and the sentinel aspect of the birds, because the martins created a commotion when something unusual approached, serving as an alarm.

Purple Martin Facts
Clutch: usually 4-5 eggs, white
Chicks at birth: are helpless, downless, and blind

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Landlord Peter Galetto assists member Allen Jackson in banding birds. Allen, a resident of Millville and wildlife biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is offering technical advice to area residents on managing Martins. He recently became a certified bander to provide further information on NJ's Martins. He is clearly smitten by these fascinating birds.

Purple Martin Facts
Incubation: Female 15-18 days
Fledges: 26-31 days

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Banding and recovery data have provided ornithologists with an increased understanding of migration routes. The timing of migration, wintering areas utilized, the age composition of populations, individual life span, and site fidelity to breeding and wintering areas have also been learned through these efforts.

Purple Martin Facts
Care of young: both parents
Return of chicks: generally not to natal colony

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Allen Jackson bands his 1000th bird for this season! This chick certainly thought it to be a momentous occasion.

Purple Martin Facts
Diet: flying insects, primarily dragonflies
Housing: accepts colonial nesting boxes

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With each banded bird important data are recorded: the species, the date, where the bird was banded, its serial number, its age and sex. If the bird is recovered by recapture or death, the serial number can be reported to the National Biological Service, Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. Here Allen compares the bird to a chart to show landlords how to age chicks.

Purple Martin Facts
Foraging: primarily in flight, has been known to starve during adverse weather or during lengthy periods of rain when insects are not flying

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The chicks are returned to the gourd where they fall quickly back to sleep, possibly to dream of their winter in Brazil. For more information about Martins visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association at www.purplemartin.org

What to do if you find any species of bird with a band: Record the serial number if the bird is alive, and remove and save the band if the bird is not. Note the date, species, age, sex, condition, location where and how you found the bird. It is not necessary to return the band. Telephone 1-800-327-BAND (2263) or report the information to the Nationl Biological Service, Bird Banding Laboratory, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland 20708. In return you will receive a notification that includes interesting information about the bird and the date and location of its banding.

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