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When Should I Expect My Purple Martins?

Prepare for Purple Martin Migration 

Every year millions of Purple Martin Birds (Progne Subis) migrate from South America to North America for breeding from their non-breeding nest sites in South America. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology believes it takes purple martins about four to six weeks to travel from Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, British Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to their preferred breeding locations in the United States and Canada. Cornell Lab scientists believe they travel North to take advantage of longer summer days in northern latitudes for protracted feeding times.

As they travel north it is important to know when to have your purple martin houses, gourds and racks set up and to open your Purple Martin bird houses. Before the arrival of the European starling , and invasive bird to North America, Native Americans would hollow out natural gourds and create bird houses for the purple martin. Today, the Purple Martin bird relies on humans for their housing needs. As the purple martin migrates north to Eastern North America they search out nesting sites. West of the Rockies they nest in trees, woodpecker holes or other natural cavities. In Eastern North America humans need to prepare purple martins houses. To prepare progne subis birds new nest sites Cornell lab recommends following the Ravenox bird migration map below which shows the estimated arrival dates of the Purple Martin bird in different areas around the country. Make sure you’ve got everything in place well in advance of arrival of the first scouts. Keep an eye out daily for their arrival. Be sure to leave entrances to the martin houses nest sites closed until you spot that first Purple Martin scout, or other species of birds could take advantage of your Purple Martin gourds and set up their own nests in your purple martin houses. Be sure set up traps for non-native species of sparrows and starlings or they could invade your Purple Martin colony before your first Purple Martins even arrive. Usually, younger Purple Martins arrive about 4 to 12 weeks after the first adults arrive.


In general, your Purple Martin gourds and birds houses can attract Purple Martins well into summer so be sure to not take down your gourd racks or bird houses until late August or early September in northerly areas. Fledgling Purple Martins look for housing sites late in the Fall for housing opportunities for the coming year!


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  • Is there any food that will help Purple Martins enhance their purple color. We have 56 nest boxes and most years about 38 – 46 nesting pairs. They are so busy that I find it difficult to ever see much purple. We seem to see more of a reflexive purple and black shine. The pictures on the internet seem to show such a bright blue/purple definition.

    Mavis on
  • How do I register my birds. I only had 2 pairs of nesting birds last year, but many young ones looking in the fall. My friend had 12 to 15 pairs nesting last year.

    Mike on
  • My husband and I have our oun houses,lol don’t ask…I like to wait till I see a bunch of martins before I put my house up I have the good pole,his are home made one being a wooden house that his dad made,needless to say that is saying they love that house,but once it’s up it’s up.2 birds came in on the fifth4 more on the 8th.I’m still not raising my pole,although I should because it’s so easy for me to empty it out.the question is when is the right time to let them all go up. Two birds are just not enough for me,to put it right up…

    Monica on
  • I’ve had Purple Martins for 30 years at my current location, they arrive in January and leave about May. This year I’ve seen Purple Martins flying around recently…?? Possible they are out of cycle this year for some reason?

    Jack Myers on

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