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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 13.8 years (wild)
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Joao Pedro de Magalhaes
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de Magalhaes, J. P.
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Behavior

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Purple martins communicate vocally and visually. Purple martins have eleven identified vocalizations that they use for different occasions like mating, warning, and teaching the young during fledging. Male purple martins use singing and visual displays to attract potential female mates. Juvenile purple martins resort to ‘choo-choo’ calls to attract their parents’ attention if protection is needed. Parents use juvenile 'choo-choo' calls to assemble their broods and return them safely to the nest. Female purple martins use the ‘choo’ call to lead their young to and from groupings areas during the fledging period. Purple martins only resort to ‘zwarck’ calls when they need to send a high intensity alarm, and it is often accompanied by the birds diving straight down towards the invader. Male purple martins use ‘hee-hee’ vocalizations to fight off intruders. ‘Zweet’ calls are used to show intraspecific excitement, as well as send an alarm to warn other purple martins of a potential threat and to encourage them to fly away. Purple martins use ‘cher’ calls to communicate daily and will use ‘chortle’ calls in high excitement situations. Males attract females by singing ‘croak songs’ as well as to warn off unmated males from entering their territory. During courtship males make a clicking sound by snapping their lower and upper mandibles together. The last vocalization male purple martins use are ‘subsongs’ and are heard during feeding and pre-migratory periods. ‘Subsongs’ are used to communicate with other purple martins while socializing together. Purple martin males that are part of a stable colony often perform a 'dawnsong' which include a variety of sounds early in the morning.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets ; choruses

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Conservation Status

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The IUCN Red List has listed purple martins as a species of least concern. The United States Federal list has listed purples martins as being a species of concern. Currently several groups are working on conserving the natural habitat of purple martins. Under the Michigan Special Animal list, purple martins are not in danger. Overall, purple martins have stable population numbers and inhabit a wide geographical range. In Canada, purple martin populations have seen some decline, and are currently considered at risk in British Columbia. Local populations have suffered greatly from weather related mortalities in the northern edges of the breeding range. Purple martins are also declining due to the competition for nesting sites. Purple martins compete with invasive house sparrows and European starlings for nesting sites. Currently in British Columbia they are setting up special nesting boxes in the hope of sustaining the remaining population.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Benefits

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There are no known adverse effects of purple martins on humans.

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Benefits

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Humans benefit largely from the insectivorous food habits of purple martins. Purple martins consume large quantities of pest species including flies, stink bugs, clover weevil beetles, and mosquitoes.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Associations

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Purple martins play roles as predator, prey, competitor, and host. Purple martins are insectivorous and are known to be effective pest controllers. Purple martins are preyed upon by many species and also serve as a host to several species of parasites. Purple martin populations have been greatly affected by mite parasites, specifically Dermanyssus prognephilus that live inside their nests. These blood-feeding parasites are able to decrease clutch size and an outbreak may lead to colony abandonment. Other parasites include ticks, beetles, louseflies, fleas, and bowflies.

Purple martins have to compete for nesting sites with house sparrows and European starlings. Starlings often corner purple martins in their own nest cavities where fighting results and often ends in death. This competition is particularly unfortunate, as both house sparrows and European starlings are invasive species in the United States and often out-compete native purple martins for nesting habitat.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • nest mites (Dermanyssus prognephilus)
  • ticks (Ornithodoros)
  • louseflies (Hippoboscidae)
  • fleas (Ceratophyllus)
  • bowflies (Protocalliphora hirundo)
  • bowflies (Protocalliphora sialia)
  • beetles (Attagenus piceus)
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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Trophic Strategy

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Purple martins are primarily insectivores. They capture food in flight and rarely glean insects from foliage or the ground. Purple martins prefer eating fruit flies (Ceratitis), mosquitoes (Culicidae), wasps (Polistes), beetles (Coleoptera), ants (Formicidae), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), cicadas (Cicadidae) as well as dragonflies (Anisoptera). Purple martins may consume 400 flies or 2000 mosquitoes in a day.

Purple martins rarely eat spiders Araneida and prefer any other insect instead. Generally purple martin diets consists of 23% wasps and bees (Hymenoptera), 16% flies, 15% assorted bugs like stink bugs (Pentatomidae) and black bugs (Thyreocoridae), and 12% were beetles (Onthophagus). Purple martins also eat butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) but dragonflies seem to be preferred. Young purple martins prefer eating dragonflies over other insects while adults show no specific preference to dragonflies.

Purple martins are greatly dependent on the weather, since it has a profound effect on insect populations. At low temperatures insect food sources tend to decrease, where as at high temperature purple martins have an abundance of food. High velocity winds also decrease food availability. Purple martins tend to eat beetles throughout all the seasons, but flies tend to disappear from their diet in late August. Insect populations tend to be at its highest during August which coincides with greater nutritional need in preparation for fall migration. It is during August that purple martins must hoard up food and nutrients for the long flight back south. These birds consume water in flight by skimming their lower beaks across any water source.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Distribution

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Progne subis, commonly known as purple martins, inhabits the Nearctic region and can be found across North and South America. They are migratory birds that breed in North and Central America and overwinter in South America. The northern extent of the breeding range includes the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba. Purple martins breed across the eastern half of the United States, and also may be found along the Pacific coastline including the entire Baja Peninsula.

Purple martins overwinter across most of South America including the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Their winter range has been recorded to be South American lowlands anywhere east of the Andes Mountains. Concentrated populations have been found to winter in Bolivia and some provinces of Brazil. There have been some records of purple martin populations found in the British Isles, but these birds rarely migrate outside of the Americas.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Habitat

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Purple martins prefer open spaces that are situated close to any water source, as they are insectivores and are attracted to the large populations of insects near wetlands, swamps, and wet meadows. Purple martins also seem to avoid high elevations, for instance the Appalachian Mountains, but may be found at elevations from less than 100 m to 4,000 m. Due to colonization and human interactions in their natural habitats, purple martins are now accustomed to human interaction and live in close proximity with humans today. They tend to find shelter in urban settlements, often living in specially made birdhouses called "martin houses". Historically, this species inhabited forest edges, montane forests, and deserts and nested in abandoned woodpecker cavities. Some populations that breed in the western United States continue to live in these natural settings, however most utilize man-made martin houses.

During migration, these birds stopover in a variety of habitats. They usually fly over coastal lines and cross the Gulf of Mexico. They have been recorded in lowlands and the high mountain ranges of Venezuela and Columbia. They are often seen in cities and open areas while migrating south. Wintering habitats include rainforests, agricultural areas, and clearings of South America. They may also reside in urban plazas.

Range elevation: <100 to 4000 m.

Average elevation: 2600 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Life Expectancy

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The longevity of purple martins range from 0 to 13 years and nine months. Purple martin mortality is often the result of severe weather. Three to four days of severe weather can lead to insect numbers drastically declining. If there is a lack of food, purple martins cannot survive and this often results in population decline. Another hindrance to long life expectancy is often body parasites. Purple martins host a protozoan blood parasite Haemoproteus prognei. This parasite can have disastrous effects on the surviving rate of first year birds during the winter and migration period.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
13.75 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
165 months.

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Morphology

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Purple martins are the largest North American swallow, measuring 20.3 cm long and weighing 56 g on average. Their wingspan is about 45.7 cm. Males are a bit larger, entirely shiny, and deep purple or almost black in coloration. Purple martin males have less shine on their blackish wings and tails compared to their heads and backs. Females are overall gray or gray-blue with darker wings and crown feathers, and feature a white breast smudged with varying degrees of gray. Western females are overall paler than eastern. Purple martins have a dark, black-brown bill and the average length is 8.2 mm for males and 8.5 mm for females. Their gape tends to be yellow in young birds and a dull orangey-brown color in adults. Their legs and feet have a black brown coloration and their eyes are dark brown.

Juvenile purple martins are overall gray to black with a white belly and gray-streaked breast. In juveniles, there is a much clearer line between their gray throats and white bellies compared to females which will have a primarily gray belly. In flight, a juvenile's tail may have a narrow, slight fork whereas adult tails are distinctly forked and wider.

Populations residing in the southwest United States exhibit lighter coloration than purple martins in other regions. This lighter coloration is hypothesized to be an adaptation to the desert climate and serves to absorb less heat.

Range mass: 10 to 55 g.

Average mass: 48 g.

Range length: 18 to 22 cm.

Average length: 20.3 cm.

Range wingspan: 39 to 43 cm.

Range basal metabolic rate: 2.6 KJ*g^-1*day^-1 to 4.0 KJ*g^-1*day^-1 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Average basal metabolic rate: 3.0 KJ*g^-1*day^-1 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
author
Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Associations

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The most common predators for purple martins are owls and snakes which prey on both adults and juveniles. Owls attack while the birds are inside the nest. Owls grab the nest and shake it, which disorientates the purple martin. Purple martins then try to slip out of the entrance hole, but owls grabs them with their claw. Humans can help prevent these owl attacks by attaching curved rods over nest entrances so that owls cannot perch atop the martin houses. Owls have also been known to reach their claws into martin houses to grab purple martins.

Predators like snakes or raccoons are able to climb the bird house poles and make their way to the entrance cavities. They pull out any adult birds and then proceed to eat the eggs. The snakes that tend to prey on purple martins are usually non-poisonous and often climb up the poles and eat both the eggs and young. Rat snakes are the most common snake predators. Hawks and blue herons are the only predators that prey on purple martins in the air. Domestic cats prey on purple martins when they are on the ground in search of nesting material. Squirrels also prey on purple martins by climbing up the nest and entering the cavity. Squirrels kill the young, break up all the eggs and can even occupy the nest to raise their own young.

One anti-predation behavior shown by purple martins is vigilant nest cleaning. Purple martin parents will eat fecal sacs and encourage juvenile birds to defecate by poking at their cloacal region. The feces will be either consumed or removed from the nest by dropping them outside. The elimination of feces and fecal sacs allows for protection, since the scent trails would be removed.

Purple martins respond to predator attacks by sending the 'zweet' call. 'Zweet' calls are used to warn other purple martins of the threat or to encourage them to fly away. Purple martins often dive bomb their attacker. Purple martin colonies have no coordinated response to predators. They do not all attack the predator but do assemble as a crowd to confuse predators and make it difficult to focus on one bird. The only birds that do attack the predator are the owners of a threatened nest. Purple martins will generally stay out of the predator’s way unless the predator comes within a few meters of their nest and young. Then purple martin adults have been known to attack the predator. Purple martins benefit from living in large colonies, because it adds to their protection and stability. Large colonies are able to detect predators faster, thereby decreasing predation.

Known Predators:

  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • magpies (Pica)
  • crows (Corvus)
  • gulls (Larus)
  • rat snakes (Colubridae)
  • house cats (Felis domesticus)
  • blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata)
  • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • blue herons (Ardea herodias)
  • squirrels (Sciuridae)
  • snakes (Serpentes)
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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
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Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Reproduction

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Purple martins are socially monogamous, but form a pair bond that rarely extends to subsequent seasons. In Texas, 5% of purple martins that occupied more than one nest practiced polygamy. Males arrive at the breeding grounds first and will select nest cavities where he will display to potential mates. The male often selects two nest sites for females to choose from. Males are very territorial and will aggressively defend nest sites from other males. Unpaired males will perform an aerial display to any nearby female. This display begins with the male flying out from his nest in a wide arc, then swooping back into the cavity, popping out his head and singing. Research has suggested that despite these efforts, females are more interested in the quality of a nest site than a male's displaying ability. Once a pair has formed, the male defends the nest cavity as well as his mate. Although the pair is aggressive towards foreign intruders, they tolerate each other and will continue to tolerate each other in subsequent years even when they are paired with other mates.

Mating System: monogamous

Generally purple martins spend their winters in South America just past the Andes, and start returning to their northern breeding grounds as early as January 1. They slowly move northwards progressing generally 3 to 5 degrees latitude (330 to to 550 km) every half a month and they reach their northern limits around May 1. Adult males often return first, followed shortly by adult females while sub-adults return a couple weeks after. This general breeding pattern has been found to be true for a generalized population, except the non-colonial Saguaro desert broods. These purple martins arrive early May, which is about two and a half months later than any other colony at the same latitude. Reasons for the difference in arrival patterns have not yet been discovered.

After a pair bond is formed, the martins can start building a nest. Nest building starts about a month before the pair intends to lay the eggs. Common materials used to build nests are green leaves, grass, sticks, paper, mud, and feathers. The use of green leaves as nesting materials is poorly understood, but there are currently many hypotheses. The female performs most of the construction, while the male gathers materials and defends the cavity from other martins. Historically, purple martins used natural cavities to nest in but due to deforestation and the removal of dead trees, these birds mostly nest within man-made "martin houses" that can house an entire colony of martins.

The breeding season for purple martins starts in May and will last until June. A purple martin nest can have anywhere from 3 to 8 white, oval eggs but the average amount of eggs laid is 5. These eggs are usually about 2.4 by 1.7 cm in size and are then incubated for 15 to 18 days. The chicks fledge after 26 to 31 days and travel in a family group. The group returns to sleep at the nest for several days. At 7 to 10 days after fledging the young are able to survive on their own and will disperse. Young purple martins can reproduce in the first subsequent breeding season.

Breeding interval: Purple martins generally breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Purple martin breeding season occurs during the months of May and June.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 8.

Average eggs per season: 4 to 5.

Range time to hatching: 15 to 18 days.

Range fledging age: 26 to 31 days.

Range time to independence: 33 to 41 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): <1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): <1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 4.

After the eggs are laid, the female is the primary incubator. Incubation lasts from 15 to 18 days. When the female leaves the nest, the male will proceed in incubating the eggs himself but this happens infrequently. As soon as the chicks hatch, brooding begins and usually lasts until the tenth day. The female alone broods the young. Purple martin chicks are altricial and are completely dependent upon the parents for survival.

The young are fed within hours of hatching and will continue to be fed for 5 to 7 days after the young fledge. Both the male and female feed the brood. Feeding occurs by regurgitating food and transferring it into the mouths of the young one by one. As the brood gets older the feeding sessions become more frequent and reaches its peak when the young start gaining the most weight, which occurs around days 17 to 21. The feeding becomes so regular that it may occur every 30 seconds. Parents ensure that the food is the proper size to be swallowed and if the pieces are too large and swallowing does not occur instantly, the food is removed from their mouths. Parents keep the nest clean by eating the fecal sacs and encouraging the young to defecate by poking at their cloacal region. After two weeks of development, the female purple martin will cease to sleep in the same compartment as the nestlings, because less frequent night brooding is necessary.

Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Male); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Snyman, N. 2012. "Progne subis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Progne_subis.html
author
Nadine Snyman, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Doris Audet, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
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Rachelle Sterling, Special Projects
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Catherine Kent, Special Projects
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Progne subis

provided by DC Birds Brief Summaries

A large (7 ¼ -8 ½ inches) swallow, the male Purple Martin is most easily identified by its large size, dark purple-black body, and notched tail. Female Purple Martins are purplish gray above and pale below with streaking on the breast. While the male is unmistakable in North America, the female resembles other pale breasted swallows, although it is generally much larger. On migration and during the winter, both sexes may be confused with other species of martin occurring in the American tropics. The Purple Martin breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. Other populations breed on the Pacific coast from California to British Columbia, in the interior west, and in western Mexico. This species is a long-distance migrant, wintering primarily in Bolivia and southern Brazil. Purple Martins historically bred along forest edges near water, nesting in old woodpecker holes in dead trees. Today, almost all Purple Martins, particularly those breeding in the east, nest in man-made nest boxes in urban or suburban areas. In winter, this species is found foraging over open savannah and fields, roosting in trees or buildings nearby. Purple Martins exclusively eat flying insects. In the Purple Martin’s breeding range, the easiest way to find this species is to look for the large, white, pole-mounted nest boxes in which Purple Martins prefer to nest. While foraging, this species may be seen swooping over ponds, lakes, and open country while catching insects in flight. Purple Martins are primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least Concern

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Reid Rumelt

Progne subis

provided by EOL authors

A large (7 ¼ -8 ½ inches) swallow, the male Purple Martin is most easily identified by its large size, dark purple-black body, and notched tail. Female Purple Martins are purplish gray above and pale below with streaking on the breast. While the male is unmistakable in North America, the female resembles other pale breasted swallows, although it is generally much larger. On migration and during the winter, both sexes may be confused with other species of martin occurring in the American tropics. The Purple Martin breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. Other populations breed on the Pacific coast from California to British Columbia, in the interior west, and in western Mexico. This species is a long-distance migrant, wintering primarily in Bolivia and southern Brazil. Purple Martins historically bred along forest edges near water, nesting in old woodpecker holes in dead trees. Today, almost all Purple Martins, particularly those breeding in the east, nest in man-made nest boxes in urban or suburban areas. In winter, this species is found foraging over open savannah and fields, roosting in trees or buildings nearby. Purple Martins exclusively eat flying insects. In the Purple Martin’s breeding range, the easiest way to find this species is to look for the large, white, pole-mounted nest boxes in which Purple Martins prefer to nest. While foraging, this species may be seen swooping over ponds, lakes, and open country while catching insects in flight. Purple Martins are primarily active during the day.

References

  • Brown, Charles R. 1997. Purple Martin (Progne subis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/287
  • Progne subis. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • Purple Martin (Progne subis). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • eBird Range Map - Purple Martin. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012.

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Rumelt, Reid B. Progne subis. June-July 2012. Brief natural history summary of Progne subis. Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
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Robert Costello (kearins)
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Purple Martin ID from the Purple Martin Conservation Association

provided by EOL authors
The four sex/age classes of Purple Martins are pictured on this site: http://purplemartin.org/MartinID/martinid.html
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Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA), 2001. "Purple Martin Identification" (On-line). Accessed 09/05/11 at http://purplemartin.org/MartinID/martinid.html.
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Darren Milligan (darrenmilligan)
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Purple martin

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The purple martin (Progne subis) is a passerine bird in the swallow family Hirundinidae. It is the largest swallow in North America. Despite its name, the purple martin is not truly purple. The dark blackish-blue feathers have an iridescent sheen caused by the refraction of incident light[2] giving them a bright blue to navy blue or deep purple appearance. In some light they may even appear green in color.

Being migratory, their breeding range extends from central Alberta down through the eastern United States. Subspecies breed in Baja California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Most make a brief stopover in the Yucatán Peninsula or Cuba during pre-breeding migration to North America and during post-breeding migration before reaching their overwintering site in South America.[3]

They are known for their speed, agility, and their characteristic mix of rapid flapping and gliding flight pattern. When approaching their nesting site, they will dive from the sky at great speeds with their wings tucked.

Taxonomy

In 1750 the English naturalist George Edwards included an illustration and a description of the purple martin in the third volume of his A Natural History of Uncommon Birds. He used the English name "The Great American Martin". Edwards based his hand-coloured etching on a preserved specimen that had been brought to London from the Hudson Bay area of Canada by James Isham.[4] When in 1758 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the tenth edition, he placed the purple martin with swallows and swifts in the genus Hirundo. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Hirundo subis and cited Edwards' work.[5]

The purple martin is now placed in the genus Progne that was introduced in 1826 by the German zoologist Friedrich Boie.[6][7] The genus name Progne is from Greek mythology. Progne or Procne (Πρόκνη), the daughter of King Pandion of Athens and wife of King Tereus of Thrace was transformed into a swallow. The specific epithet subis is Latin for a bird mentioned by the Roman author Nigidius Figulus that could break eagle's eggs. It may have been applied to this species because of its aggression toward birds of prey when it is nesting.[8]

Three subspecies are recognised:[7]

  • P. s. subis (Linnaeus, 1758) – nominate form, south Canada, east USA and east Mexico. Winters through South America east of the Andes
  • P. s. hesperia Brewster, 1889 – southwest USA and northwest Mexico. Perhaps winters in South America.
  • P. s. arboricola Behle, 1968 – west USA and north Mexico. Perhaps winters in South America.

Description

With an average length of 20 cm (7.9 in) and a wingspan up to 38 cm (15 in), the purple swallow is the largest amongst the 90 some species in the family Hirundinidae.[9]

Measurement ranges:[10]

  • Length: 7.5–7.9 in (19–20 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6–2.1 oz (45–60 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.3–16.1 in (39–41 cm)

Purple martins are sexually dimorphic. Adult males are entirely black with 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 a slightly forked tail. Both male and female purple martins exhibit delayed plumage maturation, meaning it takes them two years before they acquire full adult plumage. Subadult females look similar to adult females minus the steel blue sheen and browner on the back. Subadult males look very much like females, but solid black feathers emerge on their chest in a blotchy, random pattern as they molt to their adult plumage.[3]

Purple martins are quite vocal. They are known to chirp, chortle, rattle, and croak.[11] Their various calls are described as "throaty and rich" and can be rendered as tchew-wew, pew pew, choo, cher, zweet and zwrack. The males have a gurgling and guttural courtship song, a dawn song, and even a subsong used at the end of the breeding season.[11][12] Tapes of purple martin song are sold to attract martins to newly established birdhouses.

The species of this genus are very closely related, and some view the purple martin, gray-breasted martin, caribbean martin, and southern martin, as a superspecies.[11]

Distribution and habitat

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Fledglings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Purple martins' breeding range is throughout temperate North America.[13] Their breeding habitat is open areas across eastern North America, and also some locations on the west coast from British Columbia to Mexico.[14] Martins make their nests in cavities, either natural or artificial. In many places, humans put up real or artificial hollow gourds, or houses for martins, especially in the east, where purple martins are almost entirely dependent on such structures. As a result, this subspecies typically breeds in colonies located in proximity to people, even within cities and towns. This makes their distribution patchy, as they are usually absent from areas where no nest sites are provided. Western birds often make use of natural cavities such as old woodpecker holes in trees or saguaro cacti.[3][11] The birds migrate to the Amazon basin in winter. Its winter range extends into Ecuador[15] but does not seem to ascend far up the Andean foothills.

The first record of this species in Europe was in Colne Bridge, Yorkshire, in 1854. This sighting was later documented by Seth Lister Mosley at Tolson Museum. More recently, a single bird was spotted on the Lewis, Scotland, on 5–6 September 2004, and a second sighting was recorded on the Azores on 6 September 2004.

Migration

Wintering in Brazil, Bolivia and parts of Peru,[3] purple martins migrate to North America in the spring to breed. Spring migration is somewhat staggered, with arrivals in southern areas such as Florida and Texas in January, but showing up in the northern United States in April and in Canada as late as May.

Arrival date to the breeding grounds tends to correlate directly with age. It is assumed that the older birds arrive on the breeding grounds first to obtain the better nesting sites. Older males typically migrate first and leave the overwintering sites in late December or early January, followed by older females. Younger birds (first yearlings) typically arrive to the breeding grounds up to two months later.[16]

Fall migration is also staggered, as birds head south when the breeding season is over. Some birds leave as early as July and others stay as late as October. Martins generally migrate over land, through Mexico and Central America. When not breeding, martins form large flocks and roost together in great numbers. This behavior begins just prior to the southern migration and continues on the wintering grounds.[3]

These flocks can be so large that when they take-off from these roosts to forage the activity is detected on Doppler radar as rings. Referred to as roost rings, they start small then get larger until the birds have spread out and the ring disappears.[17]

Behaviour and ecology

Breeding

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Eggs and small chicks in a nest box in Oklahoma, United States

Males arrive in breeding sites before females, and establish their territory. A territory can consist of several potential nest sites. After forming a pair, both the male and female inspect available nest sites. This process is complicated by the fact that artificial nest sites could be houses with many rooms, clustered gourds, or single gourds. The nest is made inside the cavity of such artificial structures and retains a somewhat flat appearance. The nest is a structure of primarily three levels: the first level acts as a foundation and is usually made up of twigs, mud, small pebbles and in at least a few reported cases, small river mollusk shells were used; the second level of the nest is made up of grasses, finer smaller twigs; the third level of construction composing the nest, is a small compression usually lined with fresh green leaves where the eggs are laid.

Purple martins are generally known to raise only a single brood. The average clutch size is four to six eggs per nest. Females lay one egg a day and incubation begins when the penultimate (second to last) egg is laid. Incubation lasts 15–16 days and the female is the main incubator, with some help from the male. Hatching occurs over the course of two to three days. Fledging, when the young leave the nest, occurs between 26 and 32 days after hatch day. Fledglings will continue to receive care from both parents for up to a month after fledging.

Food and feeding

Purple martins are insectivores, primarily feed by hawking, a strategy of catching insects in the air during flight. The birds are agile hunters and eat a variety of winged insects. Rarely, they will come to the ground to eat insects. They usually fly relatively high, so, contrary to popular opinion, mosquitoes do not form a large part of their diet.[3] Research published in 2015, however, does indicate that the purple martin feeds on invasive fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and that they may make up a significant portion of their diet.[18]

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Male chirping

Relationship with humans

Purple martins (nominate form P. s. subis) are considered synanthropic, meaning they have developed an association with humans over time and benefit from living in close proximity to them.[19] Through years of generational imprinting and nesting the eastern species has made a complete transition from nesting in the wild to relying on human-provided nesting sites. Initially difficult to get a colony started, once established, the colony will persist as long as nesting sites are available. Martins have a very strong "site tenacity" and if are successful in raising a brood, will often return to the same site to nest year after year.[20]

The human-avian relationship was in place even before the population crash in the 20th century; Cherokee were known to have hollowed out gourds and hung them on wooden snags and posts in the pre-colonial era. They erected them so that the adult birds would build nests and then feed thousands of insects to their young each day that would otherwise be eating their crops. In 1808, Chickasaws and Choctaws were observed hanging gourds for martins on stripped saplings near their cabins, as were African Americans on long canes on the banks of the Mississippi.[19]

Continual maintenance and protection is required, as European starlings and house sparrows compete with martins as cavity-nesters, and will fight with martins over nest sites. Thus, unmonitored purple martin houses are often overtaken by more aggressive, non-native species.[3] Purple martin proponents are motivated by the concern that the purple martin would likely vanish from eastern North America were it not for this assistance.[21]

There is a misconception among many people of purple martin temperament. Many people believe purple martins will defend their nesting sites against competitor species such as the house sparrow and European starling. However, both species are more aggressive and in most cases will instinctively fight to the death in order to obtain a nesting site. The house sparrow and European starling are known to kill adult martins, take over the nest and remove eggs or remaining young.

Conservation status

Purple martins suffered a severe population crash in the 20th century widely linked to the release and spread of European starlings in North America. European starlings and house sparrows compete with martins for nest cavities. Where purple martins once gathered by the thousands, by the 1980s they had all but disappeared.[22]

Though listed as being of least concern with the IUCN,[23] purple martins are experiencing a unique threat to their long-term survival. Nearly all eastern species exclusively nest in artificial gourds and 'condo' units provided by human 'landlords'. A practice that has been experiencing a steady decline in the number of 'landlords' offering nesting sites. One study found that nearly 90% of landlords were 50 years of age or older, and that younger generations were not exhibiting the same enthusiasm nor possessing the resources to provide martin housing.[19]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Progne subis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22712098A94319217. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22712098A94319217.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Gill, Frank B. (2007). Ornithology. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman and Company. pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-0-7167-4983-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Charles R. Purple Martin (Progne subis); The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole (eds.). "Purple Martin - Introduction". Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bow.purmar.02. S2CID 239439762. Retrieved 1 November 2009. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Edwards, George (1750). A Natural History of Uncommon Birds. Vol. Part III. London: Printed for the author at the College of Physicians. p. 120, Plate 120.
  5. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 192.
  6. ^ Boie, Friedrich (1826). "Generalübersicht der ornithologischen Ordnungen, Familien und Gattungen". Isis von Oken (in German). 19. Cols 969–981 [971].
  7. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Swallows". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  8. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 317, 371. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  9. ^ "Hirundinidae | bird family". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  10. ^ "Purple Martin Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". www.allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  11. ^ a b c d Turner, Angela K.; Ros, Chris (1989). Swallows & Martins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 7, 123–126. ISBN 0-395-51174-7.
  12. ^ Peterson (1980): p. 202
  13. ^ Attenborough, D. The Life of Birds. 1998. BBC p 297. ISBN 0563-38792-0
  14. ^ See AOU (2000) for details.
  15. ^ Guayas and Orellana Provinces: Cisneros-Heredia (2006).
  16. ^ Morton, E. S. (1990). "The Biological Significance of Age-Specific Return Schedules in Breeding Purple Martins". The Condor. 92 (4): 1040–1050. doi:10.2307/1368740. JSTOR 1368740.
  17. ^ Russell, K.R. (1998). "Large-Scale Mapping of Purple Martin Pre-Migratory Roosts Using WSR-88D Weather Surveillance Radar (Mapas a Larga Escala De Los Dormideros Pre-Migratorios De Progne subis Utilizando Radares WSR-88D Para El Monitoreo Del Clima". Journal of Field Ornithology. 69 (2): 316–325. JSTOR 4514321.
  18. ^ Helms, Jackson A., IV; Bridge, Eli S.; Godfrey, Aaron P.; and Ames, Tayna. (2015): The Purple Martin Update. "Fire Ant Exterminators". 24-27.
  19. ^ a b c Jervis, L. (2019). "Resisting Extinction: Purple Martins, Death, and the Future". Conservation and Society. 17 (3): 227–235. doi:10.4103/cs.cs_18_37.
  20. ^ Abare, Chuck. "The Purple Martin Progne subis subis". Chuck's Purple Martin Page.
  21. ^ "Purple Martin Conservation Association". Archived from the original on 2012-07-30.
  22. ^ Hunn, Eugene S. (1982). Birding in Seattle and King County. Seattle Audubon Society. pp. 107–108. ISBN 0914516051.
  23. ^ International), BirdLife International (BirdLife (2016-10-01). "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Purple Martin". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
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Purple martin: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The purple martin (Progne subis) is a passerine bird in the swallow family Hirundinidae. It is the largest swallow in North America. Despite its name, the purple martin is not truly purple. The dark blackish-blue feathers have an iridescent sheen caused by the refraction of incident light giving them a bright blue to navy blue or deep purple appearance. In some light they may even appear green in color.

Being migratory, their breeding range extends from central Alberta down through the eastern United States. Subspecies breed in Baja California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Most make a brief stopover in the Yucatán Peninsula or Cuba during pre-breeding migration to North America and during post-breeding migration before reaching their overwintering site in South America.

They are known for their speed, agility, and their characteristic mix of rapid flapping and gliding flight pattern. When approaching their nesting site, they will dive from the sky at great speeds with their wings tucked.

license
cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
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