Progne Subis – Purple Martin

Progne Subis - Purple Martin found in the US

The purple martin, Progne subis in Latin is a Hirundinidae passerine bird. It’s North America’s biggest swallow. The purple martin is not genuinely purple. They are recognized for their speed, agility, and unique flying style of fast flapping and gliding. They will drop from the skies at high speed, wings tucked, to their nesting place.

Quick Overview: Progne Subis – Purple Martin
Body size: Around .28-8.5 in (18-22 cm) and a weight of 48-57 g (1.7 oz)
Main colors: Purple, Black, Gray, Gray-Blue, White, Brown, Yellow, Orange-Brown
Range: Midwest and Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Purple Martin Description

Purple martins are the biggest North American swallows. Males are bigger, glossy, and deep purple or black in appearance. Male purple martins have duller black wings and tails than their heads and backs. Females are gray or gray-blue overall, with darker wings and crest feathers, and a white breast smeared with gray. Western ladies are paler. Purple martins have a dark, black-brown bill that is 8.2 mm long on average. Their gape is yellow in juveniles and dull orangey-brown in adults. Their legs and feet are dark brown, as are their eyes.

Progne Subis - Purple Martin found in the US
Progne Subis – Purple Martin. Source: Wikipedia


These birds have a length of .28-8.5 in (18-22 cm) and a weight of 48-57 g (1.7 oz). Their wings could range from 15.5-16.75 in (39-43 cm).


Purple martins eat insects. They eat insects from the air and seldom from the ground. Birds such as purple martins feed on insects such as ants, grasshoppers, cicadas, and fruit flies. They may eat up to 2000 mosquitoes or 400 flies every day. Purple martins seldom eat Araneida spiders and prefer insects. Purple martins eat about 23% wasps and bees, 16% flies, 15% bugs including stink bugs and black bugs, and 12% beetles. Purple martins also consume moths and butterflies, but prefer dragonflies. Adult purple martins consume dragonflies but not other insects.


As insectivores, purple martins prefer open areas near water sources, such as marshes, swamps, and wet meadows. Purple martins avoid high heights, such as the Appalachian Mountains, but may be found from 100 m to 4,000 m. Purple martins are now acclimated to human interaction due to colonization and human interactions in their native habitats. Martins live in urban areas, frequently in specially designed birdhouses called “martin homes.”


Purple martins breed and winter in northern South America. They are most active during dawn and dusk. They are huge colonial birds. They either fly in pairs or stay in their colonies. The colony returns to South America at the conclusion of the summer. Thousands of birds can join these communal journeys home. Purple martins show synchronization in big colonies. Purple martins collaborate to boost the colony’s reproductive success. Larger colonies are more successful at synchronization because they contain mature birds, whereas smaller colonies have inexperienced individuals.

Progne Subis Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Genus: Progne
  • Species: Progne subis

Best time of the year to see

 The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Purple Martin in the USA

Breeds southward from British Columbia, the middle region of Canada, and Nova Scotia, but is generally missing from the interior western highlands and Great Basin. It is particularly prevalent in the Midwest and eastern areas.

The Purple Martin can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Progne Subis – Purple Martin

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