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Origins of The Purple Martin

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Origins Of Its Name

A naturalist known as George Edwards in the year 1750 wrote a book titled: A Natural History of Uncommon Birds. In this book, he included the first known illustration/description of the bird we now know as the purple martin (Edwards, 1793). It wasn't until the year 1826 where the German zoologist Friedrich Boie officially named the bird Progne Subis for the following reason (H.W.W, 2015): 

Progne: From Greek mythology, the daughter of King Pandion of Athens and his wife were transformed into a swallow. (family of bird)


Subis: A bird the Roman author Nigidius Figulus says can break an eagle’s eggshell. (species of bird)

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Relationship with Humans Over Time

     Purple martins are considered a synanthropic species, meaning they have realized it is beneficial to live around humans. With that being said, at this point in time, they are primarily dependent on humans to create a nesting site for them. Furthermore, they have a very strong ’’site tenacity’’ meaning that if they can raise a brood successfully, it is almost guaranteed they will return to the same site year after year until they eventually become unsuccessful at doing so. (Chuck, 2008)

     This relationship initially started around 1808. The Choctaws, a group of Native American people that resided in the Southeastern Woodlands (Mississippi and Alabama), would hollow out saplings, creating a nesting site for the birds. The Choctaws would help the birds because they would then return the favour by eating many destructive insect species, such as the fire ants, that were known to destroy the group’s structures. (Conservation and Society, 2015)


     The relationship between us two species has been excellent since the start of time. However, we as humans might not be able to keep it since we are all that these birds have left after getting overpowered by many other species of birds and being victims of the negative effects of pesticides, ultimately weakening them increasingly over time.

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