Purple Martin nest boxes at Budd Inlet - July 25, 2018

Purple Martin Nest Boxes at Budd Inlet
Olympia, WA
July 25, 2018 

A pair of juvenile Purple Martins signalling
emphatically that they are hungry and ready to be fed
Adult male Purple Martin brings a large darner dragonfly to feed its young
Purple Martins are the largest swallow in North America. In the Olympia area, they can be found in Spring and Summer at nest boxes on Budd Inlet near the Children's Museum and at Boston Harbor Marina. By mid-July, young Martins are beginning to mature; you can see them poking their heads out curiously. Their eyes scan the horizon, looking for an adult with a dragonfly or other morsel. The adults swoop in quickly, often taking less than 5 seconds to feed the growing brood before taking off again. 

Male Purple Martins are a luxuriously vivid violet-blue. Females are more understated with lighter blue and dusky gray markings. 

Purple martins winter in South America. The journey can be as long as 5000 miles each way, each year! Martins follow at least three different paths as they return each spring. Some move through Mexico on their way to the West Coast. Others cross the Gulf of Mexico, leaving from the Yucatan Peninsula or take a route through the Caribbean islands to arrive in Florida.

Fall migration can start as early as mid-July in some parts of the country. During the fall migration flocks of thousands of martins can form for the long trip south.

During the winter season these birds are apparently concentrated chiefly in the Amazon Valley of Brazil (Manaqueri, Barra do Rio Negro, and Itaituba) but are found in other parts of South America.

Two female Purple Martins perch outside a nest box while a chick
looks on, anxious for its next meal
Several adult Purple Martins perch near nest boxes
at Olympia's Budd Inlet






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