What Do Purple Martins Eat? The Uncensored Truth

December 9, 2021 // 8 minute read

Articles » What Do Purple Martins Eat?

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If you’re planning on attracting purple martins to your home, you may be wondering what they eat. Fortunately, we have all of the answers for you.

Purple martins are one of the most iconic species in North America. They are easy to identify because they have a bright purple, almost metallic sheen on their feathers.

These birds can be found all over the United States, but they prefer warmer climates and higher elevations than other types of swallows. One thing that sets them apart is what they eat.

Purple martins have a voracious appetite for insects. They consume several species of insects every day, from mosquitos to wasps. Attracting them means making sure your home has a decent population of these creepy critters around.

Below, we’ll provide more information about the feeding behavior of purple martins.

What is the Feeding Behavior of Purple Martins?

Adult purple martins hunt for food at all hours of the day. They prefer to fly in groups, known as a swallow or martin colony.

They are very territorial by nature and will often fight with each other over prime feeding spots.

Youngsters can get kicked out of their homes if they start fights too frequently, so you’ll need to make sure your backyard is large enough for them not to be crowded together when nesting season begins next year.

During springtime evenings you may witness some spectacular aerial displays between birds that have just finished mating and those who are looking for an opportunity to do so themselves.

The males especially work hard during this time because females tend to choose male partners based on how well they feed their young.

What are All of the Insects Purple Martins Eat?

Among the insects that purple martins eat are crane flies, butterflies, and moths.

These birds also prey upon caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, and dragonfly larvae. A few of their favorite species include:

  • The common house mosquito (Culex pipiens)
  • Box elder bugs (Boisea trivittata)
  • Paper wasps (Polistes dominulus)
  • European corn borers (Pyrausta nubilalis)

How Do Purple Martins Hunt for Insects?

There are several ways purple martins can hunt for insects.

The most common technique is to catch them in mid-air using their long, pointed bills.

They have excellent eyesight and can spot prey from up to 100 feet away. You may also see them snatch an insect or two while they’re perched on a tree branch or telephone wire.

Purple Martins will even pick off some of the bugs that live within your home!

However, these birds do not eat pests like cockroaches because they tend to carry harmful bacteria that make other animals sick if consumed.

Related Purple Martin Articles:

How Do Purple Martins Feed Their Young?

Male purple martins feed their nestlings by regurgitating insects they’ve caught into their nests.

Females will sometimes join them in this activity, but most of the parenting responsibilities fall upon the father’s shoulders.

They’ll care for these young birds until they are big enough to hunt on their own and move out of their home territory.

How are Purple Martins’ Diets Affected by the Weather?

If you live in an area where it’s warm year-round, your purple martins will eat more insects during the summer months.

The opposite is true if you live in a place with cold winters; they’ll be less active and their appetites will decline because there are very few bugs to catch.

If you’re near water, this may also affect what kind of prey these birds switch to when living inland.

You can find out what kinds of insects are common around your home by looking for larvae or pupae cases on trees surrounding your property.

This method works best at night while most species are resting inside their homes until morning comes along again.

What Else Do Purple Martins Eat?

In addition to all of the insects they catch, purple martins also eat some fruit and seeds when these items are abundant in their habitat.

You’ll find them eating:

  1. Mulberries (Morus rubra)
  2. Raspberries (Rubus idaeus)
  3. Black gum tree fruits (Nyssa sylvatica).

These birds will supplement their diets with whatever berries or nuts happen to fall into their nests from nearby plants as well. 

Can Humans Feed Purple Martins?

It’s true that purple martins will eat some types of human food if it’s offered to them.

You can buy specially-made bird feeders that are designed for their beaks or you may opt for peanuts in the shell instead.

Some people also place apples and oranges on top of posts within reach of hungry birds who aren’t afraid to fly down from nearby perches to grab a bite when they’re desperate enough. 

What Should Humans Not Feed Purple Martins?

Purple martins have dietary requirements just like other animals do, so avoid feeding them anything else besides what has already been mentioned above.  

They cannot digest dairy products because these only come with nutrients meant for young mammals.

They also cannot digest grains or other plant matter, so don’t leave any of this kind of food behind when cleaning up after a barbecue.

What Birds to Purple Martins Compete With for Food?

Other types of swallows, such as the cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), will sometimes try to steal food from purple martins because they’re very territorial.

You’ll want to watch out for this behavior and take steps towards removing rocks or other barriers that may be causing fights between these birds who are competing over their insect prey within your yard. 

When Should You Feed Purple Martins?

Not all species of purple martins will come to your bird feeders when they’re hungry, but some may if you leave mealworms, jelly or suet out for them instead.

You’ll want to set up a few different types of feeding stations throughout the year during breeding season and migration season in particular.

How Should You Feed Purple Martins?

Feeding purple martins isn’t a difficult task. In fact, there are two main ways of feeding purple martins in your home: active and stationary feeding.

Active Feeding:

This involves hanging out bird feeders on trees, posts, or any other place where purple martins are known to visit.

Stationary Feeding:

This method of feeding is more common in areas with large populations of these birds because you can spend time building a platform for their food instead.

What are Some Supplemental Foods for Purple Martins?

If you want to attract more purple martins to your yard, setting aside supplemental food is essential.

Below are some examples of the types of supplemental foods purple martins eat:

FoodDetails
CricketsYou can purchase a variety of cricket types from bait shops and fishing stores.

They will also eat earthworms, mealworms, or wax worms if these foods are available to them as well. 
EarthwormsThese are another favorite food of purple martins because they’re abundant in their habitats and easy to find when the ground is wet enough to dig them up with ease. 
Suet PelletsYou can also feed these birds suet pellets designed for wild bird species since this will help attract more purple martins into your yard over time too.  
PeanutsSome people have had success feeding peanuts out on posts within reach of hungry swallows who aren’t afraid to land close by while others say that these birds aren’t fond of nuts very much at all.  
Scrambled EggsYou can also feed purple martins scrambled eggs, but only if you’re prepared to clean up after this messy meal. 

Additionally, you should always use an egg beater or whisk when preparing the dish because whole eggs are much too large for these small birds.

Can Humans Interact with Purple Martins?

In areas where purple martin numbers have dwindled due to changes in habitat conditions, it’s important for humans to take action by providing additional nesting options for these birds who rely on human-made structures during the mating season each year.

Humans can even help out wildlife organizations like The Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA) by donating time and money towards their cause which is dedicated to restoring populations around North America back up again.

Ready to Start Feeding Purple Martins?

Purple martins are aggressive insectivores. Their diet mainly consists of a wide variety of insects, commonly found in your front or back yard.

This makes feeding them very simple and less time-consuming than other bird species.

Remember to keep this information in mind to keep purple martins flowing in your yard year-round.

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