What Do Purple Martins Eat? Everything You Need To Know

What do Purple Martins eat

If you’re a bird lover, or perhaps you own a Purple martin and want to know what they eat, today is your lucky day.

This article will take you through the Purple martins diet, teach you how to feed them, when to feed the bird, and lay down many fun facts about the Purple martin.

Purple Martin Diet

The purple martin has a unique eating habit. It captures its prey while in flight mode. It also drinks water mid-air by scooping water from lakes and ponds with its beak.

Their primary diet is insects.

Purple Martins are notorious for regulating the pest population by eating insects such as the following;

  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • House flies
  • Wasps
  • dragonflies
  • Wasps
  • Mosquitoes

There is this popular myth that Purple Martins are super predators of mosquitoes and eat thousands of mosquitoes in a day.

However, this myth has been debunked because mosquitoes usually fly at low altitudes while the Purple Martins fly at a much higher altitude.

So the predator and prey hardly cross paths.

When Should You Feed Purple Martins? 

Regarding food, the Purple Martins are great hunters and can take care of themselves. However, there are some situations where the bird might want to depend on humans to survive.

During extreme weather season, insects will become scarce. Therefore, the Purple Martin may not find much of its insect delicacy, which will surely affect their feeding pattern.

Once the weather goes below 50 degrees, almost all the insects will go off the radar, thus affecting the birds. Furthermore, if the extreme weather continues for four to five days, the Purple Martin could starve to death.

Asides from extreme weather, extreme fog and rainy weather can also stop insects from flying outside.

How To Feed Purple Martins?

In situations like extreme weather, extreme fog and rainy weather, you’re advised to hand feed your bird and keep them alive.

Furthermore, there are two ways you can hand feed your Purple Martin: stationary feeding and active feeding.

Stationary feeding

The stationary feeding style allows you to use a bird feeder to feed your Purple Martin.

Furthermore, you may need to combine stationary feeding with active feeding to let the birds know there’s a healthy supply of bird food nearby.

I recommend that you try to sustain the Purple Martin with active feeding before feeding them with stationary feeding. This will prepare them and ensure that they are open to the idea of receiving food from humans.

Active feeding

If you’re using an active feeding method to feed your Purple Martin, you’ll need to throw the food in the sky to imitate a flying insect so the bird can pick it up mid-flight.

You can either use a blowgun, slingshot or your hands to get this done. Bear in mind that the Purple Martin might not quickly understand what you’re trying to achieve, so always be patient.

For a high success rate, toss the food very close to the bird’s house where you’re sure they’ll notice it.

Alternate Sources Of Food

Purple Martins love crickets, so while preparing your active feeding routine, you can use crickets as your food source.

However, you need to ensure the crickets are not alive; otherwise, they might escape.  You can also use Mealworms since they’re widely available and a perfect choice for stationary feeding.

The third option will be cooked eggs, which you can introduce to the Purple Martin once It Has Accepted Insects.

Fun Facts About Purple Martins

These astonishing songbirds are highly wanted in the eastern part of the United States as backyard birds. Here’s more information on Purple Martins.

Purple martin facts

  1. Purple martins have a height of around seven to eight inches, with a wingspan of about 15 inches. They are also the largest swallows in all of North America and one of the world’s largest swallows.
  2. Don’t let their name confuse you. These birds don’t have any relationship with the purple color. The color of their feather is dark blue-black combined with a gorgeous dazzling sheen.

When you take a deep look at the angle and light, their color might look like navy blue, royal blue, green, or even purple.

  1. The Purple male martin is the only North-American swallow that has a dark belly. This helps to differentiate it from other swallow species once it’s in the air.

Also, bird lovers should note the difference between swifts (also have dark under-belly) and purple martins, even though their flight styles and body shape differ.

  1. Different genders and age grades of Purple martins migrate at various times. Usually, the older males will begin the migration, followed by the older females before the younger ones.

Due to this natural rule, the older birds can secure good nesting sites for themselves because they were the first to get to the breeding ground.

  1. Purple martins are colonial and social birds. Their nesting colonies consist of hundreds of bird pairs, while their roosting colonies in the latter part of the season will have thousands of bird pairs.

The biggest roosting colony ever assembled was projected to have more than 700,000 birds in attendance.

  1. Purple Martins preferred choice of food is insects. They love to hunt and eat gnats, crickets, flies, moths, and other flying insects.

They do most of their hunting and drinking in the air by using their beaks to scoop water off ponds and lakes while in flight mode.

  1. Purple Martins eat their meals at an altitude between 160 and 500 feet above the sky. Due to their preferred flight path, they rarely cross paths with mosquitoes.

This is why mosquitoes account for a smaller percentage of their daily regimen, despite the myth that Purple martins can consume around 2,000 mosquitoes daily.

  1. Purple martins love and cherish their chicks so much that they are willing to feed them up to 60 times every day.

They’ll bring various insects high in protein for their chicks so they can absorb the needed nutrients to grow. The responsibility to feed the young chicks lies between the male and female parents.

Severe weather conditions usually affect the health of the Purple martin.

During severe rain or cold, there might be a scarcity of insects, and as a result, many bird colonies could die from starvation unless the weather improves anytime soon (between two or three days).

  1. There is a mutual relationship going on between humans and Purple martins that started centuries ago. In those days, the Native Americans will hang their gourds so the birds can nest in.

The objective of the native Americans is to attract the birds to their farms to help them eliminate their pest problems and protect their harvests.

Today, the purple martin colonies located in the east are almost 100% dependent on man-made housing.

Although, the western colonies still nest in their natural habitats like abandoned woodpecker holes or tree snags.

  1. Purple martins are loyal to their nesting sites and will return there every year if it’s still valid.
  2. The recorded age of the oldest Purple martin that ever lived was more than thirteen years.
  3. While on the hunt, Purple martins can go as fast as 40 miles per hour. They are very agile and good mid-air predators and can participate in complicated aerial acrobatics while chasing their target.
  4. Purple martins are great tropical migrants who will move from North America to experience winter in South America once it is summer.

Their entire migration flight plan can take a maximum of three months to achieve. As they move along, they’ll feed and drink on the way.

  1. Purple martins are not the most ferocious bird in the sky. They are scared of the house sparrow and the European starling. These two birds are the purple martin’s sworn enemies.

These are more aggressive than the purple martin and can attack at will and even kill the purple martin if it ever gets in their way.

One of the reasons why the house sparrow and the European starling usually clash with the purple martin is if they are both competing for crucial nesting sites.

There are other predators of the purple martin, and they include the following;

  • Snakes
  • Hawks
  • Squirrels
  • Owls
  • Raccoons
  • Feral cats

Some of these predators hunt the purple martin as a food source, while others prefer to invade their nest, destroy eggs and kill any young bird that they find.

How Many Eggs Can A Purple Martin Lay?

Purple martins can lay around three to eight eggs. However, the average they can lay is five. The eggs get laid on consecutive days of the week, though the egg-laying process usually occurs in the morning.

Their eggs are usually pure white, and also their incubation period takes around 13 to 14 days on average.

The female handles the incubation, while both parents will be responsible for feeding the chicks once they hatch.

The Bottom Line

Purple martins are remarkable birds that love to sing and can help you with your insect infestation problem. I hope you learned a thing or two from this article.