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Critter of the Month

Critter of the Month - AUGUST


The Purple Martin is the largest of the swallows in North America and in the eastern United States depends entirely on man-made bird houses for nesting sites. After the breeding season adults and fledglings form large communal roosts where they can find santuary from predators. Most Purple Martins depart Tennessee by early September to head to their wintering grounds in South America.

The male Purple Martin is entirely blueish-black while the female is more muted wiht a dingy gray underbelly. Their call is a rich gurgle of notes and is often heard while they're in flight. Their diet consists of flying insects which they pick from the air.

In eastern North America, Purple Martins have nested almost exclusively in nest boxes or 'martin houses' for more than 100 years. Historically they would have used natural cavities, especially old woodpecker holes but are now found in those multi-compartmental birdhouses and hollowed out gourds. Non-native European Starlings and English House Sparrow often compete with Purple Martins for nest sites so it's important to clean out and close-up your Martin houses once the Martins have migrated to South America opening them up again in March when the Martins typically return.