It is at this time of year that you will begin to see huge flocks of Purple Martins, and you know that Fall is close at hand.
Creating rest stops for migratory birds in your wildlife garden is a wonderful way to support these birds on their long journeys.
At the end of the breeding season these birds gather into very large flocks, often over open water. Several towns have annual Purple Martin festivals where you can go at dusk to see the flocks come in to roost. If you live close to one of these gathering points, it is well worth the trip to see the sky full of these swirling, diving birds.
The Purple Martin collects all of its food and water on the wing, consuming large quantities of flying insects. They are definitely a good friend to farmers, eating many pest species.
In fact, it was for this reason that Native Americans began hanging gourds near their camps to attract these birds to their living spaces so that they would eat the insects who were eating their crops.
Purple Martins are the largest members of the Swallow family, and a popular resident of backyard nest boxes. In fact, in the Eastern US, these birds have nested almost exclusively in nest boxes for almost 100 years, while in the Western US the birds still use natural cavities, including Saguaro Cactus.
The Purple Martin is a communal nester and can be attracted to nest boxes with multiple compartments.
In the Spring some Purple Martins will return to their nest box early, but these are not “scouts” checking to see if it is safe for the others to return. These are older birds who have successfully made this journey before. They will soon be joined by the rest of the flock including last season’s young, who will also be breeding this year.
The Purple Martin migrates every year from its wintering grounds across South America to its breeding range which covers a large portion of North America.
Find out how to attract Purple Martins to your beautiful wildlife garden at the Purple Martin Conservation Association.
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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