These beautiful birds (more blue-black than really purple) have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with humans for centuries. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, American Indians would hang gourds near their homes to attract the birds. Their motives weren’t purely altruistic—Purple Martins are prodigious insectivores, which was a great benefit! While traveling the country compiling his Birds of America, John James Audubon would sometimes choose lodgings based on the quality of the Purple Martin house outside, remarking that “the handsomer the box, the better does the inn generally tend to be.” The birds became so accustomed to their new accommodations that today, many Purple Martins will no longer nest in the woodpecker holes they once preferred. (In the western part of their range, where houses were not traditionally provided, martins will still nest in natural locations.) Purple martins often roost in enormous flocks in cities, and their morning departure and evening return can be a spectacular sight, much larger than the evening emergence of bats. Join Travis Audubon this summer at our Purple Martin Parties to see this spectacle for yourself!