The New Student's Reference Work/Martin
Mar′tin, the common name for certain large swallows found in Europe and America. The North American form is often called the purple martin on account of the color of its upper parts; glossy, iridescent black, reflections purple and blue. Like other swallows, it has long wings and a deeply-forked tail; unlike swallows generally, its note is soft and musical. The bird is distributed throughout North America, winters far down in South America, and migrates late in April and early in September. It nests near houses, and where boxes are placed for it will occupy the same shelter year after year. Once these boxes were the rule about every farmhouse, and familiar to almost every farmer-boy was the graceful circling of the invited bird above the kindly-prepared home; but the English sparrow, that robber and destroyer of peace, has taken possession of the martins’ houses, and chased the desired bird away from neighboring with man. In the south the negroes hang gourds about their cabins for the martins, knowing that these plucky little birds will fight intruding hawk or crow, and thus will protect their chicken-yard. Martins’ eggs are white. The number of injurious insects destroyed by these birds is enormous — in the height of their activity, probably several hundred every day for each bird. The European house-martin is similar in habits. See Blanchan’s Bird Neighbors.