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Purple Martins Face Challenges Upon Returning To Breeding Grounds

Many of the Purple Martins that return from South America to the Northeast to breed have flown across the Gulf of Mexico to get here.  Once they’ve made this impressive trip, their challenges are far from over.  The reproductive success of Purple Martins depends not only on their arriving on their breeding grounds, but on surviving once they have arrived. One of the largest challenges that faces them upon their return is related to their diet, which consists exclusively of flying insects.  Purple Martins are particularly susceptible to spells of cold and rainy weather during the spring and early summer which can drastically reduce their supply of food.

Even when the weather doesn’t present them with nutritional challenges, Purple Martins have to contend with European Starlings and House Sparrows, both of which aggressively compete with them for artificial/human-made nest sites. Human intervention and management is often needed in order to protect the martin population. (Photo: male Purple Martin)

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2 responses

  1. Alice

    A topsy-turvey world…lots of humans don’t want flying insects, use sprays to get rid of them, but many birds rely on insects to survive.

    May 10, 2021 at 9:20 am

  2. What a striking photo!
    And very interesting. I’ve considered putting a martin house in my large back yard here in Central Vermont. My friend down the road had one for many years, but it eventually fell into disrepair and she took it down.
    Re. “Human intervention and management is often needed in order to protect the martin population…” What kind of human intervention and management?
    We have an abundance of starlings and house sparrows around here. Now I’m wondering if there’s any chance martins would be able to re-establish in the neighborhood? Or what it would take to create a welcoming environment? – Dell

    May 10, 2021 at 10:54 am

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