Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Purple Martin
 
 

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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Sylvioidea)
            Family Hirundinidae - Swallows and Martins
  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Sylvioidea includes nuthatches, creepers, wrens, tits, kinglets, and Old World Warblers.
Swallows (more forked tails) and Martins (squarer tails) are slender aerial predators with a short bill and wide gape. Their plumage is often metallic above and they have a single annual molt. They nest in holes, boxes, burrows, or nests made of mud. The family probably originated in and diversified from Africa. 
     
     
  Purple Martin, Progne subis
 
  Cornell     USGS     Wiki     EoL
        SUMMER Common, breeds / Common
            AERIAL FORAGING (restricted to areas with nest boxes in the east)
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   Purple Martins are the largest swallows in North America. They nest colonially in holes but now usually use man-made houses or drilled gourds. Males are a uniform bluish black and other plumages are dark (females are a gray-brown below with smudgy markings and young have lighter bellies with fine streaks). The tail has a shallow fork.
Purple Martin
     
Adult and young Purple Martins. Myrtle Beach.
Note slight fork in the tail
   
  RANGE: Purple Martins breed from Nova Scotia, west through the Great Lakes area and northwest through much of Alberta, then south through the center of the Dakotas and eastern Texas to the Gulf , east to Florida, and up the Atlantic coast. There are isolated breeding groups along the Pacific coast and in the southwest, extending south into Baja and western Mexico. In winter, martins migrate to South America, east of the Andes.
   Populations have declined - competition with starlings for nest sites may be involved?
  BREEDING: Monogamous. 1-3 broods. Purple Martins usually nest in colonies and are occasionally polygamous. Both parents construct a nest of grass, leaves, mud, and feathers in a niche in a cliff, a tree hole, or other cavity (usually a martin house or group of gourds).  They lay 4-5 (3-8) eggs which the female incubates for 15-18 days. Young are altricial. They leave the nest after 26-31 days and both sexes provide parental care.
  DIET: Martins feed insects caught while flying (and sometimes takes ants or other insects on the ground - especially in harsh weather). They drink and bathe while flying (skimming the surface of the water).
  VOICE: Their song includes a rich, liquid gurgling. They also give low whistles, especially a descending "cherr." They may be heard "talking" as they feed.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - uncommon spring through fall (breeds). Edisto - summer.
      Coastal - common summer resident. Hilton Head - common summer resident. Cape Romain - common/common (breeds)/common/rare.          Huntington Beach - uncommon April - May; common June - September; uncommon October.
      Caw Caw - common/common (breeds)/fairly common/absent. ACE - uncommon/uncommon (breeds)/absent/absent.
   SCBBA: Almost all counties. Widespread.
   P&G: Common breeder. 9 March - 8 November. Accidental in winter. Egg dates: 25 April - 6 June.
   Avendex: 11 reports, concentrated in winter.
   Potter: Fairly common to common summer resident in the coastal plain. They arrive by late January and reach inland locations by mid-March. Fall migration begins in late July when local birds gather in large flocks.
  ●  Common - summer. On Seabrook, martins often feed alone or in small groups over fields, marsh, and beach - any open area. The larger, massive flocks of swallows seen in the spring and fall are, however, Tree Swallows, not martins. Inland, migrating martins may gather in large communal roosts in the fall - up to 100,000 birds. Dreher Island in Lake Murray supposedly has the largest martin roost in the east.
   Rosebank Farms maintains a colony in gourds along the road that are regularly occupied. There are also houses on several Seabrook properties and two are located on the golf courses. Martins may be heard calling as they fly. Look for a large, dark swallow with a shallow fork in the tail.
       
    Banner - Purple Martin, Sapelo Island, GA.
       
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