Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Purple Martin

On this day in 1749, Pehr Kalm wrote about swallows in his journal. The timing is not surprising, since swallows are among the returning migrants at this time of year. Kalm took the opportunity to write about the local swallows in Raccoon (now Swedesboro), NJ; Barn Swallow and Bank Swallow received notice, as did the "chimney swallow," which has since been reclassified as Chimney Swift.

Kalm concluded by writing about the Purple Martin. Even in that early day, people built houses for martins in order to attract them. Kalm states, "They drive away both hawks and crows as soon as they see them, and by their anxious note alarm the poultry of the approach of their enemies. The chickens run to shelter as soon as they are warned by the martins" (Kalm 1987).

The martin image in this post is an Arm and Hammer trading card illustrated by Louis Aggasiz Fuertes. Fuertes did three groups of paintings for Arm and Hammer, and the cards frequently turn up on eBay.

Kalm, Peter. 1987. Peter Kalm's Travels in America. Dover, New York, NY.

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