Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Bruce Bonebrake
Photo Copyright Bruce Bonebrake

The purple martin, Progne subis, breeds throughout eastern North America, as well as on the Pacific coast and in parts of interior western North America and Mexico. It winters in South America. The purple martin is rare during summer in the mountains of northern and central Utah, but is more common during migration in the lowland valleys, where it formerly bred. The original habitat of this species was probably forest edge and riparian habitats, but many populations now inhabit cities and towns almost exclusively. The current breeding habitat of this species in Utah, however, is a natural habitat: aspen and coniferous forests near mountain lakes. The diet of this species is flying insects.

Natural nest sites of this species are cavities, such as old woodpecker holes in trees and holes in cliffs, but this species now extensively utilizes artificial sites, such as nest boxes and bird houses. Nest cavities are often in open areas near water and are usually more than five feet above the ground. The five to eight eggs (usually four or five) are incubated by the female parent for fifteen to eighteen days. The young are tended by both parents and leave the nest after twenty-six to thirty days. Nesting is typically in colonies, and males are often polygynous.


  • Brown, C. R. 1997. Purple martin. Birds of North America 287: 131.

  • Behle, W. H., E. D. Sorensen, and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. vi + 108 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.