Purple Martins

In New Brighton we are lucky enough to have the only registered colony of Purple Martins in Calgary and its surroundings. Our neighbour, Andrew B., is the resident who started and who is looking after this project. He is gladly sharing his passion and his knowledge about birds with people he meets walking next to his bird houses. The project is located on the storm pond NE from the intersection of New Brighton Drive SE with New Brighton Ave SE. The land is public, right next to the walking path behind the houses, so everyone can visit the project – please do not interfere in any way with our feathered residents. 

Here, at the New Brighton Community Association, we made sure this project has a future – we signed an agreement with the City of Calgary to keep this project in New Brighton, on public land, for everyone to enjoy. 

This is the location of the Purple Martins project – the big white birdhouse. The smaller wooden birdhouse is for Goldeneye Ducks.

For the parents walking in this area with their kids – please do not shake the poles of the birdhouses, the birds do not like this (Andrew saw few kids doing it and this puts the birds at risk, even the project/colony itself). Thank you all.

Andrew is kind enough to send us regular updates. We hope the project will grow over the years to be a symbol for New Brighton. 

Update for the 2023 end of the season:

This season (2023) we reached full capacity and then some…..

We had 17 purple martin nests which produced a staggering 65+ young that fledged (left the nest).

The first male martin arrived at the end of April (27th) from the long migration journey from South America.  The martins departed for the winter migration back to South America last week of August.

Next year (2024) we will once again be lucky enough to have an established colony and 100% full house capacity – actually will be turning away martins as we just don’t have enough condo space…. good problem to have I guess.

Purple martins are our largest swallow in North America and are 99% reliant on humans to provide them with condo living (nest boxes). Purple Martins (PUMA) eat insects while flying exclusively – such as dragonflies, damselflies, wasps, and other flying insects. 

They also drink water by “skimming” the top of the pond while flying and drink. Unlike other birds who perch while drinking, swallows do it all while flying… very cool to watch on the storm ponds.

We (New Brighton) are still the only active registered PUMA colony in the city of Calgary and the most southern active colony in Alberta. 

Purple Martins are extremely friendly and tolerant of humans, so much so they welcome my nest checks every 4 days, keeping an eye on the nest progress, weekly cleaning on the nests and adding a helping hand. This is common practice with martins and it is needed to have a successful thriving colony. 

The martin condo is now down for the winter for maintenance and repainting etc…. but will go back up in April 2024 ready for the first arrivals back next spring….

Update for the 2022 end of the season:

” The Martins are gone now, the last ones departed back on Sept 07th and all are now beginning the journey south to South America. They will begin the journey back starting in early January 2023, arriving in Alberta early May 2023.

Final numbers are as such:

– 37 chicks hatched and fledged in 2022 vs 22 chicks in 2021
– 9 out of 12 condo units had chicks (full nest) vs 5 nests in 2021
– 22 total Martin adults stayed all summer – 18 of those adults paired and produced eggs / chicks. In 2021 we had 14 total adults (10 adults who paired up)

I suspect we will have a 100% full occupancy in 2023 – all 12 units full. I can expand the current condo unit from current 12 units to 16 units (add 4).

The martin condo unit will come down this weekend (Saturday September 17) and storing for winter…”

Thank you Andrew for another season of work and dedication and for bringing these beautiful birds in our community. 

Update for the 2022 start of the season, with some background history and few personal touches: 

So to say the Purple Martins have “taken flight” this year 2022 is an understatement… Every year since 2019 the colony has grown…

2019 (year 1) we had a single mature male visit the colony and stayed all summer – we named him Rod, the colony founder 

2020 (year 2) Rod (mature male) returned and was able to attract a female (named Marcy) and the colony became official – 1 nest with 5 chicks that all successfully fledged. I and my wife named the colony founders Rod and Marcy in honour of her best friend Marcy and husband Rod who tragically  passed away a few years ago in a car accident.

2022 update

2021 (year 3) and the colony expanded, 12 adults total and nest count grew to 5 nests which fledged 15 chicks.

2022 (year 4) and well to say the colony has expanded yet again would be an understatement, more like exploded.

This year as of June 29, I have recorded 22+ adult Martins with 10 confirmed nest and an 11th nest started. Keeping me very busy with nest checks every 4 days until all eggs hatch, then nest checks every 3 days.

Out of the 10 nests so far, the breakdown is as such: 35 eggs still to hatch and 10 that have hatched, making the total so far = 45 potential chicks with more potentially on the way 😊

With all the rain in June and now some heat, bugs are everywhere and feeding young etc. is in full swing and no shortage.


Andrew was kind enough to send us the update for the 2021 season.

“2021 was a very successful year for the Purple Martins, the colony grew from one pair to now 6 pairs and all produced eggs!

We had a total of 14 Martins present all season – 12 of which formed pairs. In late July throughout August the eggs started to hatch, the colony fledged 15 healthy young which is 10 more young vs the previous season in 2020.

2022 should be a very exciting season and with just about a full house expected – 12 pairs / 24 adults, could produce up to 60 young chicks…. WOW!!!

The Martins have now left for South America, the long migration for winter has started and will be back next year end of April or early May 2022

Here is a breakdown of this season events:

  • May 03rd “Marcy” returning female from 2020 arrives
  • May 17th “Rod” returning male from 2020 arrives
  • May 18th, new mature male joins the colony
  • May 30th, single young male joins colony
  • June 01st, young female and young male join colony
  • June 07th, another young male arrives at the colony
  • June 08th, another young female arrives and joins the colony
  • June 12th, pairs start to forms and select nesting units
  • June 15th, nesting pairs start to build nests
  • June 17th, another female joins the colony, now up to 11 martins in total
  • June 22nd, eggs starting to appear in selected units
  • June 26th, another female appears and stays at colony
  • July 01st, we are now up to 21 eggs in total thus far
  • July 08th, a few of the eggs started to hatch in unit #3
  • July 08th, another young male arrives and stays
  • July 11th, a second mature male joins the colony
  • July 14th, 16 eggs have now hatched out of the 22 total eggs
  • July 23rd, all eggs now hatched (22 total)
  • July 28th, parents feeding young chicks around the clock, every 2-5 mins
  • Aug 04th, a few of the chicks now poking out of the nesting units and exploring. Getting ready to fledge soon
  • Aug 08th, some of the young begins to fledge and fly
  • Aug 12th, additional Martins from other colonies arrive to help with fledging young and “teaching”
  • Aug 16th, all Martins now fledged and flying. They will remain at the colony for another 2 weeks sleeping and “roosting” until they migrate south.
  • Aug 24th, only a few young martins remain at the colony for sleeping. They are gone during the day.
  • Sept 03rd, all Martins have now left for winter migration…

I also had another successful year with the Goldeneye ducks nest box (pond edge). The male and female returned again to the nest box and raised 5 ducklings back in April – June.”

In the last years one of the top hobbies is bird watching. Imagine instead of driving long distances to watch birds having a lot of species right in your neighborhood, in your backyard. The internet has an abundance of information about these birds, once you see them and you want to know more “the sky is the limit” – https://www.purplemartin.org/ .

The Purple Martins are good looking swallows who are eating around 2000 insects a day. Was largely believed that they eat mosquitos but this is a misconception because they fly around and feed at a height of 160-500 feet and mosquitos don’t roam that high. The people living around the New Brighton Purple Martins Project told Andrew that they don’t have pesky bugs around since the Purple Martins are in the area. The City of Camrose has a growing project around these birds and even a festival – you can read about it and get more interesting facts here https://www.camrose.ca/.