Select Page
Purple Martin pair by Keith Wiggers
Purple Martin pair by Keith Wiggers

Desert Purple Martins in Southeast Arizona

Have you ever seen a Purple Martin in Southeast Arizona? These charismatic, large swallows are a beloved and iconic nestbox species in the eastern half of the United States, but if you know where to look they can be found here as well. The Desert Purple Martin (Progne subis hesperia) is a distinct subspecies that times its nesting to monsoon abundance and nests almost exclusively in saguaros or other large columnar cacti. These are “wild” martins that use naturally occurring cavities, while the eastern subspecies is said to be entirely reliant on human-made nestboxes. Desert Purple Martins are extremely understudied with large gaps in knowledge about their nesting, migration, and wintering grounds.

Tucson Audubon has launched a study on these fascinating birds—The Desert Purple Martin Project—and you can participate!

Desert Purple Martins: A Unique Subspecies

The timing of nesting and migration of Desert Purple Martins is very different from the rest of the species. They arrive in southern Arizona very late, usually mid May, and time all of their nesting activity to take advantage of the abundance of our rainy season in July and August. At this time males will often gather in the evenings and roost together in a large tree. The females stay in the nest cavity with the eggs or chicks overnight. 

When the birds prepare to migrate again in late August and September, the adults and young will gather into groups, sometimes very large, and roost together overnight. Their distinctive calls can be heard as they feed throughout the day, soaring high up in the air in search of insect prey. 

Have you seen Desert Purple Martins nesting in a saguaro or have you seen a group gathering in the evening to roost in a tree? You can report what you have observed HERE and contribute data to our project

Learn more about these amazing birds and participate in our Desert Purple Martin Project to help expand the knowledge of this special species in Southeast Arizona!
JOIN THE TEAM!

color_square_face_right

Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120 Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

color_square_face_right

Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

color_square_face_right

Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447