What do Purple Martins eat?

Photo by Chris Bosak Purple Martins (female on left) perch near their gourd colony with dragonflies at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn., in summer 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Purple Martins (female on left) perch near their gourd colony with dragonflies at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn., in summer 2014.

People love Purple Martins because the birds eat mosquitoes. Clearly that’s not all they eat — in fact, they eat far fewer mosquitoes than people think . Usually their prey is much larger.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Purple Martin swallows a dragonfly at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn., in summer 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Purple Martin swallows a dragonfly at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn., in summer 2014.

Last week, while attending a banding event at Sherwood Island State Park, I watched as the busy adult Purple Martins flew around and perched at the gourd colony. Without question, the main meal on the menu for these martins was dragonflies. Dragonflies are known as superb fliers and hunters of mosquitoes themselves, but they were no match for these determined Purple Martin parents. Some of the martins even brought back small butterflies to eat.

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

Photo by Chris Bosak
A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

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