Cover image for The purple martin
The purple martin
Doughty, Robin W.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Austin : University of Texas Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 93 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL696.P247 D38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



One of the surest harbingers of spring is the return of Purple Martins to the houses that people put up across the United States to attract these companionable birds. The bustle of courting, rearing nestlings, and fledging young martins fills the summer months, until approaching autumn lures the martins to their winter range in South America. Then human landlords refurbish their martin houses and wait for another round of this much-anticipated yearly cycle. Robin Doughty and Rob Fergus here present a concise natural history of the bird and its centuries-long companionship with people. They discuss the martin's scientific classification and names, its migration and range, and its family life. They relate stories of how Native Americans and European colonists attracted Purple Martins and how Americans throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries helped martins survive the loss of natural nesting sites by providing houses for them.

Author Notes

Rob Fergus is Executive Director of the Travis Audubon Society in Austin.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Purple martins, the largest swallow, can be found in most of the U.S. during the spring and summer, nesting in colonies in human-made martin houses and (sometimes) in holes in trees. The authors, both Texans, explain the classification of these "aerial acrobats" and discuss their migration and range. They explain the birds' role in the founding of the Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds and discuss their life cycle and the reciprocal relationship between them and humans. With 16 color and four black-and-white illustrations, this book "is about a special relationship--the regard, affection, and understanding we have increasingly come to express about a bird that responds more and more to our concern for its survival." Truly a labor of love, it contains a wealth of information about this backyard treasure. --George Cohen

Choice Review

The purple martin is a highly social insectivorous bird, one of the favorite garden birds in eastern North America. This slim volume has eight chapters that offer an introduction and information on classification, migration and range, early history, conservation, biology, promotion, and challenges facing "landlords." The role of the martin in the American bird conservation movement is discussed, as is its vulnerability to exotic nest competitors. Only one chapter treats the life history of purple martins, including diet and development. Doughty (geography, Univ. of Texas at Austin) and Fergus (Travis Audubon Society, Austin) provide valuable social commentary on the interaction of those who construct martin houses and value their presence and the birds themselves. After nesting in their dense colonies--usually on artificial structures provided for them--the martins and their newly fledged young gather in huge pre-migratory roosts. They then set out for their wintering areas, mainly in southeastern Brazil. Here they pass nearly half the year, yet little is known of their winter biology. The book closes with two chapters on the promotion of interest in purple martins and on the challenges of creating, protecting, and managing a successful purple martin colony. A nontechnical, easy reading, and engaging work, for general readers, lower- and upper-division undergraduates, and graduate students. J. Burger Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Classification: Species and Namesp. 3
Migration and Rangep. 8
Colonial Regard: Early Interest in Martinsp. 14
Martins and Bird Protectionp. 21
Life of the Purple Martinp. 33
Purple Martin Promotionp. 63
Landlordsp. 76
Further Reading and Resourcesp. 90