Purple Martin Progne Subis
Three Bridges Road, Waterloo County, ON
4 June 2013
For some reason Purple Martins have captured the attention of humans in a way shared by few other species, save perhaps the various bluebirds of North America. Native Americans provided gourds as nest sites for Purple Martins and everyone is familiar with the Purple Martin apartment houses seen in many rural locations.
It is a commonly held belief that Purple Martins will devour copious quantities of mosquitoes, thereby providing a good deal of relief to their human benefactors from these biting pests. This is simply untrue, however. Purple Martins feed on insects such as dragonflies, mayflies, moths and butterflies, all much larger than the pesky mosquito, and found at higher elevations in the atmosphere.
Regardless of whether martins are the mosquito-devouring machines legend has taught many to believe, they should be welcomed by all for their purely aesthetic value and the simple joy they bring to us during their relatively short stay at our latitude.
Sadly, like all aerial insectivores their numbers are in steep decline across the continent. Let us all hope for a reversal in their fortunes so that we may never be without Purple Martins to bring cheer to our lives.