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Purple Martins Head South to the Amazon

Why do they travel so far?

The Purple Martin is the largest swallow that nests in the US and Canada. During fall, Purple Martins from western North America migrate to a distinct wintering area in southeastern Brazil — a travel distance of more than 5,000 miles! Scientists believe that Purple Martins started out as a South American swallow species. Over time, they evolved a seasonal migration to North America because the longer days of summer sunlight provided extra hunting and feeding opportunities during nesting season.

Did you know you can listen to BirdNote as a podcast whenever you want? You’ll even get some extended episodes we can’t fit on the radio. Get even more birds in your life — just search “BirdNote” in your podcast app.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Purple Martins Head South to the Amazon

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Purple Martin song]

This sweet voice belongs to the Purple Martin, the largest swallow in the United States and Canada. It’s also one of our most beloved birds, judging by how many people put up nest boxes for them.

[Purple Martin song]

By October, nearly all the Purple Martins that spent the spring and summer visiting North America to breed are headed back south, a long way south. In the fall, large flocks of martins end up all the way down in the Amazon Basin. And some will continue even farther south from there.

Purple Martins from western North America will go all the way to Southeastern Brazil – traveling  more than 5,000 miles – in both spring and fall.

But why travel so far each year? Scientists believe that Purple Martins were first a South American swallow species. Over time, they evolved a seasonal migration to North America because the longer days of summer sunlight provided extra hunting and feeding opportunities during nesting season.

[Purple Martin song]

This same evolutionary pattern likely applies to many of the other tropical migrating songbirds that make their way north and south on their epic journeys each year.

For BirdNote, I’m Ashley Ahearn.

[Purple Martin song]

Did you know you can listen to BirdNote as a podcast whenever you want? You’ll even get some extended episodes we can’t fit on the radio. Get even more birds in your life. Just search “birdnote” in your podcast app.

###

Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of the Purple Martin [76529] recorded by C.A. Marantz.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote   October 2019

ID#  PUMA-03-2013-10-21 PUMA-03b

New Discoveries in Landbird Migration Using Geolocators, and a Flight Plan for the Future. Emily A. McKinnon, Kevin C. Fraser and Bridget J.M. Stutchbury.

The Auk, An International Journal of Ornithology. Vol. 130 No.2 April 2013.

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