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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. It’s also one of our most beloved birds, judging by how many people put up nest boxes for them! 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!

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 to nest in the U.S. 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 visit North America to breed have headed south – a long way south. In fall, large flocks of southbound martins arrive in the Amazon Basin. Some move on to lowlands further south. 

Purple Martins from western North America continue on to a distinct wintering area in south-eastern Brazil – a travel distance of more than 5,000 miles – in both spring and fall. 

Why undertake so long a trek each year? Scientists believe that Purple Martins were first a South American swallow species. Over time, they evolved a seasonal migration to North America where in summer – and during the nesting season – longer days provide extra hours of daylight in which to hunt insects for growing nestlings. 

[Purple Martin song]

This same evolutionary pattern likely applies to many of the other tropical songbirds we welcome each spring and summer.

Today’s show brought to you by Forterra, saving the places that are keystones of a sustainable future in the Pacific Northwest.  For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein. [Purple Martin song]

###

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 music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org   October 2013/2017   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  PUMA-03-2013-10-21 PUMA-03     

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.

Sights & Sounds

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