Purple Martin Progne subis

photo copyright James R Hill, III/Purple Martin Conservation Association. Used by permission

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 7 inches
  • Tiny bill
  • Largest swallow
  • Most often seen flying
  • Will nest communally at martin houses in residential and agricultural areas

Adult male:

  • Dark purple plumage, usually appears black
  • Forked tail
  • Immature males similar to female but may be splotched with dark purple

Adult female:

  • Dark gray upperparts with some purple coloration
  • Whitish underparts with gray breast band and throat with some speckling on sides and belly
  • Forked tail
  • Immature plumages similar to female

Similar species:

The male Purple Martin is easily told from other swallows by its entirely dark plumage. It is vaguely similar to the starling but has a smaller bill, longer wings and a darker plumage. Female Purple Martins are similar to Bank and Northern Rough-winged Swallows but are larger, and flap more slowly. At close range, the darker upperparts of the martin are evident.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.