Purple Martin Colonies


Purple martins originally nested in giant old hollowed out trees, but many of these trees were cleared for farming and housing when colonists arrived. that left far fewer places for purple martins to nest and their numbers decreased. Because these birds are beautiful and fun to watch, many people enjoy providing housing for them. These artificial nest sites are extremely important for the survival of the species.

Purple martins are social and prefer to nest in colonies. Visit either of ASCM's sanctuaries from spring through summer to see our purple martin colonies. Each purple martin pair will raise one brood of four to six young per nesting season. The nestlings spend about a month becoming strong enough to fly. Once they leave the nest, they must be ready to catch insects to eat while on the wing!

Purple martins are sometimes attacked by European starlings, predatory birds, or snakes. Our colonies have lost nestlings to such attacks, which can cause birds to choose another nest site the next spring. Our purple martin colony at Fred Archibald Audubon Sanctuary is currently doing well, and the martins are beginning to return to Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary in Mt. Airy!

Want to volunteer to help monitor one of ASCM's purple martin colonies? It involves weekly visits to tally eggs and young and reporting the counts to Cornell's Project NestWatch during the nesting season. Please contact our sanctuary manager, Mark Kulis. He will be happy to tell you more about this volunteer opportunity.

Want to provide housing for purple martins on your property? Visit Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA). Purple martins need large open areas. If you have the right habitat, you can purchase everything else you need to host purple martins from PMCA.