Family Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae)

Least Concern

Purple Martin (Progne subis)


French: Hirondelle noire German: Purpurschwalbe Spanish: Golondrina purpúrea

Hirundo subis


, 1758,

Hudson Bay, Canada


Sometimes considered conspecific with P. dominicensis, P. cryptoleuca and P. sinaloae, but genetic data#R reveal that present species is well differentiated from all other members of genus. Subspecific status of birds in N Rockies, on Pacific coast, and in SW USA and Mexico previously unclear, but genetic data#R suggest that all are sufficiently close to one another to be united in a single race. Birds from S Arizona, described as race oberholseri, usually considered synonymous with hesperia. Three subspecies generally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. arboricola Behle, 1968 – mountains of W North America (probably including Pacific North-west) E to Rocky Mts and S to NW & N Mexico (including N Baja California); winters probably in South America.
  • P. s. subis (Linnaeus, 1758) – E of Rocky Mts, from S Canada (C Alberta and C Saskatchewan E to SW & S Ontario, S Quebec, E New Brunswick and NW Nova Scotia) S to S USA (E from C Plains States, W Kansas and C & SW Texas) and C Mexican highlands; winters in South America E of Andes.
  • P. s. hesperia Brewster, 1889 – SW USA (S Arizona lowlands) and NW Mexico (S Baja California, and lowlands S to SC Sonora, possibly along coast to N Sinaloa and on Gulf of California islands); probably winters in South America.
  • Descriptive notes

    19 cm; 48–64 g. Male is glossy steel-blue to bluish-black; concealed tufts of white feathers on side; wings and tail sooty-black, tail moderately forked. Distinguished... read more


    During courtship, males sing gurgling “croak” song, females “chortle” song... read more


    Natural habitat is forest edge and semi-open areas with dead snags, especially near water such as... read more

    Food and feeding

    In samples taken throughout North America, diet consisted of 23% Hymenoptera (mainly ants and wasps, a few bees), 16% flies (Diptera), 15%... read more


    Start of egg-laying varies, from late Mar in Florida to mid-Jun in Canada; single-brooded (rarely, two broods in S USA). Socially... read more


    Migratory; forms large post-breeding flocks, some of hundreds of thousands of birds. E population (... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Overall population estimated at c. 11,000,000 birds. Range has contracted in N, and population declining in N and also along Gulf... read more

    Recommended citation

    Turner, A. (2020). Purple Martin (Progne subis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).