Bird of the Week: Purple Martin

    11:47 AM, Mar 7, 2013   |    comments
    Male Purple Martin (Photo: AGFC)
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- It's Thursday and that means Bird of the Week. Our photo contest has ended, but we hope you enjoyed it, and now it's back to learning about different birds you might see in your area.

    Today it is the Purple Martin. Spring is almost here and birds are beginning to migrate.

    Sarah Baxter with Arkansas Game and Fish will tell us all about the Purple Martin.

    We may not realize it yet, but spring is upon us. You may have noticed a lot more birds singing, and the birds will be migrating to their breeding grounds over the next several weeks.

    Purple Martins are one of the earliest migrants, and they are also one of the longest migrants. They winter in Brazil on south through middle South America. Many of them migrate over the Gulf of Mexico, and others fly through Central America to their breeding grounds in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

    The first ones started arriving in Arkansas in early February, and while many viewers probably know Purple Martins, they may not even have noticed them yet because they are just arriving and are still in very small numbers. This is another of those charismatic species, like the bluebird, lots of people really love their Purple Martins.

    They are our largest species of swallow, and are colonial nesters. That means that they nest in large groups very close to one another. People put up Martin boxes and artificial gourds that can accommodate 12 - 16 nesting pairs on one pole.

    There is a widespread belief that Martins eat lots of mosquitos, so that encourages people to put up more boxes and gourds, but they actually feed primarily on larger insect prey and only occasionally eat mosquitoes.

    The males are very deep purple and iridescent, and the females are more drab brown with white bellies.

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