Purple Martin

Range Map
Progne subis

Purple Martins are the largest of all American swallows and are common summer visitors in eastern North America and a few places in the west. They all fly south in the winter, some as far as northern Argentina. Man-made nest boxes, or Martin condos, are preferred by the birds in the eastern USA, but the birds in the western USA seem to prefer natural cavities, such as woodpecker holes for nesting.

Today, science recognises three subspecies of Purple Martin:

  • P. s. subis breeds across eastern North America from southern Canada south into south-central Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast. They spend winters in South America east of the Andes from Colombia south to northern Argentina.
  • P. s. arboricola breeds throughout the Rocky Mountains, south to western Texas, and in the Pacific Northwest south to southern Baja California (Mexico). Researchers believe they spend winters in South America.
  • P. s. hesperia breeds in the deserts of southern Baja California (Mexico), and southern Arizona south to Sonora (Mexico). They probably spend winters in South America.

Prior to visiting Texas in 2020, my only encounters with Purple Martins were with high-flyers zipping through the air at break-neck speeds. Thanks to a Martin condo in the RV park, where I stayed during the earliest lock-down phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was blessed with intimate encounters with these birds. The opportunity played a pivotal role in keeping me sane during insane times. I learned to recognize their bubbling songs and the calls they shared with the world while they chased high-flying insects.

24 Photos

Click map markers to reveal further information