While the snowy egret and the yellow-crested night heron are foraging down by the marina, the purple martins are busy taking care of business closer to home base. The martins arrive from South America in mid-February each year and stay through mid-to-late summer. In eastern North America these birds nest in birdhouses people put up–a common practice begun long ago. Before the Europeans arrived Native Americans hung gourds for the birds to nest in. In the western North America, though, the birds still nest in natural cavities, such as holes left behind by woodpecker.
The martins get all of their food in mid-air, dining on large, aerial insects like dragonflies. They also get their water in mid-air, too, skimming the surface of ponds and lakes and scooping water with its lower bill. They are a noisy, chatty group beginning chatter early in the mornings. Their amazing aerial aerobatics are fun and entertaining, and it’s well worth putting up with the noise days to watch the show.