Purple birds

Purple Martins are remarkably difficult to photograph. Their iridescent purple-black plumage, especially in the facial area where fluffy, almost black feathers obscure their dark eyes, turns them into dark bird-shaped blobs.  I tried photographing them from a variety of angles, just to see if I could get better resolution of those big dark eyes.

purple martin male-

Male Purple Martins have glossy, purple-black feathers on their head, back, and chest, while the wing feathers are more or less brown-black and lack the iridescence. That circle of feathers around their eyes really defies resolution, and seems to be more black than purple.  I wonder if those dark feathers are useful for absorbing stray light rays in this highly visual insectivore.

Purple Martins are highly gregarious during most times of the year, and have readily taken to the apartment houses erected for them to construct their nests, even in urban areas.

purple martin house

Martin houses like this attract dozens of nesting birds.  It must be a noisy place once all the chicks have hatched out and are begging for food.

purple martin male-

I found the early arrivals at this Martin house on a golf course, right next to the practice putting green. The birds were unperturbed by humans walking right under their home.

a pair of purple martins

Female Martins are sort of a washed-out gray-brown color with a dab of purple on their head and face. These birds are highly recognizable as a large, thick-bodied swallow with long, pointed wings and rather short tails.

Martins rarely perch except at or near their nest boxes, spending most of their time flapping and gliding over wetland areas in search of insect prey.  They feed continuously while flying in large swoops over ponds and lake shores, even drinking on the wing by dipping briefly down to the surface of the water.

5 thoughts on “Purple birds

    • Thanks, Julie — I think I’ll have another go at these sometime soon, at a time of day when the sun isn’t right overhead and directly in my face.

  1. Well I think you did a great job of it. I don’t know if this is helpful, and it may be something you do anyway, but I find when shooting bumble bees (again, black eyes in black) that if I use spot metering I get a better exposure of the bee.

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