Meet the Purple Martin

A Focal Species for World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 2020

Each fall, the Purple Martin (Progne subis) travels thousands of miles from its breeding grounds in North America to winter in South America and then makes the return journey the following spring. This large swallow, an aerial insectivore adept at snapping up insects on the wing with incredible flight maneuvers, faces numerous threats along its migratory route as well as at its breeding grounds. Since 1970, the neotropical migrant has suffered a population decline of 30% across North America as a whole, but, even more drastically, has seen a 94% loss of populations in Quebec.

The Purple Martin has been chosen as one of the focal species for World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 2020, an event  coordinated by Environment for the Americas that aims to introduce the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them. This year’s theme is Birds Connect Our World and focuses on the various ways we track bird migration.

Researchers are using tools such as geolocation devices, banding and feather studies and surveys to examine the threats birds find along their migratory routes. In Quebec, for example, researcher Kristen Lalla  has been studying the species using GPS tags to track martins on their summer breeding grounds in order to understand possible causes of the species’ severe population decline within the province. She is hopeful that the information gained by using biologging methods such as the GPS will eventually help lead to conservation success.

bpq purple martin information sheet

To learn more about the Purple Martin and how you can help protect this species, download our Purple Martin information sheet here.



Above: Purple Martin with GPS tag. Photo by Kristen Lalla