In April, North America’s largest swallow, the Purple Martin, returns to New England to breed. Nesting is now underway, and here in the East takes place almost exclusively in man-made colonial nest boxes. Prior to 1900, woodpecker holes in snags were the preferred nesting sites, but now only Purple Martins in the West tend to seek them out (unlike Purple Martins in the East, they often are solitary nesters). Even though humans have provided housing which has increased their population, there is still considerable competition from European Starlings and House Sparrows.
When they are not raising a ruckus at their nests, the iridescent dark blue-purple male and duller female Purple Martins can be seen swooping and gliding in the air as they hunt their insect prey. If there is a cold, rainy spell in the spring or early summer it can reduce their insect food supply and they can suffer great losses.
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