|Photo by Chris Barnhart- Click to enlarge|
You commonly hear that they eat lots of mosquitoes, but unfortunately it isn't true. According to the MDC,
"These aerial acrobats catch flying insects on the wing. They are not major predators of mosquitoes, which fly much lower than martins do. A martin colony, however, may catch and eat several hundred beetles, horseflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies and wasps each day. Because inclement weather can greatly reduce the availability of flying insects, an extended period of rainy or cold weather can cause massive mortality in purple martin populations."Purple Martins are the largest North American swallow and are sometimes called "America's Bird. " Originally they were cavity nesters, but early Native Americans began providing them gourd homes and European immigrants took up the habit more formally. Over time east of the Rockies they have become completely dependent on humans, living only in human provided martin houses. Now there are Purple Martin Societies, blogs, clubs, magazines and a large commercial market for houses and other paraphernalia. There is extensive information about their life at Purplemartin.org.
|Pre-migratory resting- Click to enlarge|
Currently they are filling the skies (See this map) around 8:10 and settling in around 8:30. You can probably catch the show for another 10 to 20 days.
Thanks to Chris and Deb Barnhart for the call and the pictures.
More on Purple Martin dwellings is available at missouribirds.com
and a pdf file with house designs at mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/12199.pdf