Purple Martins are members of the swallow family. They are almost 8 inches long and have a wingspan of just over 15 inches across. Of course the species of birds got their name from the beautiful color of the males. The males have a deep purple bluish color on their feathers and their feathers seem to shimmer in the sunlight. The females have a brown colored body with a hint of a purple tint on their head.
These birds like to live in colonies and enjoy the typical Martin house. This is a sure way to welcome Purple Martins to your yard. Put a Purple Martin house on a tall pole 10-20 feet in the air in order to attract these migrating birds. They are flying back from the South to places in North America and will like fruit at first before the insects are plentiful. They will arrive in late spring and be the first birds to leave in late summer.
These birds are not endangered yet, but the Purple Martin has declined over the years. They like their condos to be semi-close to where their human families live. And the interesting fact about these birds is they pretty much only live in the housing we provide, which could be a reason for their decline. I don’t know anyone with a Purple Martin house anymore. Perhaps we should start housing these birds again.
Apparently, they put on quite a show in flight when they go after insects. Martins spin and dip and twirl while they are after their favorite food. The Martin also bathes and drinks water in flight, so Martin birders say it is fun to turn on a sprinkler that is shooting water up and watch the birds play in the sprinkler just like kids.
Once the insects come out in full force, the Martins will be happy with that food buffet. They love wasps, winged ants, house flies, beetles, moths, and also butterflies. So this may be a contradiction for you if you also like to attract butterflies to your yard. But they seem to like moths and wasps better. Butterflies might be too large. As stated above, the Purple Martin will catch their meals mid-flight. And some butterflies are larger than the Martin wants to take on, or take back to the nest.
Patience is a virtue when attracting Purple Martins. Other birds will try to squat in the new condo. And it may take a few seasons for purple Martins to know there is housing available in your area. The best way to prevent squatters from other birds is to pay very close attention and if a sparrow or other small bird tries to move into Martin territory, you should move them out. Take down the house quickly before eggs are laid and clear out the nesting. This should discourage the current squatter. You never know when the Martins will find you, but eventually they will come to the roost. Provide some berries and fruit nearby, and before you know it, you may need to build another Martin house. Once Martins come one year, they will remember, and return. Your yard will be their new summer home!