10 Amazing Purple Birds You Never Knew About

Purple birds

Any sight of purple color occurring in nature should be a cause for celebration since it is not every day that you run into purple species. Consequently, the purple color is often regarded by many as sacred and associated with elegance, pride, royalty, holiness, and opulence. Think of the orchid, lavender, lilac, and violet flowers. These stand-out purple flowers are used to symbolize precious, charm, refinement, grace, and dignity.

Purple birds are no different. Their distinct purple flair lives up to this hype but they don’t seem to know it! Spotting a bird that wears a purple plumage always feels like a treat. You can’t help but admire the unique and striking purple plumage that gives them a sense of majesty and supremacy.

We stepped into the world of birding over a decade ago. And throughout our long yet exciting journey, we have observed and studied lots of purple birds. Join us as we share the defining elements of some of these purple birds.

Purple Birds

Purple Birds

Table of Contents

Are there any purple birds?

Although purple birds are rare to come across, there are over fifty entirely purple bird species. Others feature a significant splash of the purple color within an iridescent plumage.

Some of the common birds with purple feathers on their plumage include the American purple gallinule, purple martin, violet-backed starling, purple grenadier, purple honeycreeper, purple finch, violet cuckoo, violet-crowned wood nymph, purplish jay, varied bunting, common grackle, and the spending sunbird, among others.

Purple Birds

Group of Purple Birds

Top 10 amazing purple birds

1. Purple Martin (Progne sbis)

The purple martin is the largest among swallow birds of North America. These birds, especially the males, wear a dark purple iridescent plumage hence the name.

Color, Size, and appearance

The Purple martin is a big swallow with a large and broad chest, short and a short robust bill that is slightly hooked. Moreover, the tail is short and forked while the wings are long and tapered.

Males have a glossy dark blue-purple plumage above and below while the tail and wings are brown-black. The female and juvenile martins are duller and have patches of gray on the head and chest, and a little white on the lower belly. Fully grown birds measure about 7.5 – 8 inches from head to tail, a wingspan of about 16 inches, and weigh 45 – 60 grams or about 2 Oz.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

You can encounter these birds in eastern parts of North America during the spring and summer when they come to breed and revel in the warm weather. After the breeding season, they fly in big flocks to the southern hemisphere to enjoy the warm weather as well. They rely on tree cavities and hollows, and holes left by other animals like woodpeckers to nest and incubate in them, competing with house sparrows and European starlings. They are colonial-nesting birds meaning hundreds of birds will nest in the same spot. The best part; purple martins often roost in gardens inside nests provided by humans.

They feed and roost in flocks and will freely mix with their cousins from the swallow family. They are loved for the lyrical songs and playful flying rhythm. Ariel flying insects make up the biggest part of their diet. They’ll fly high up in the air to hunt for prey and this makes them difficult to spot. Talking about insects, the birds have been observed to carry out some aerial acrobatics when grabbing flying insects.

The male and female Purple Martin.

The male and female Purple Martin.

The Purple Martin

The Purple Martin

2. The Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)

They are also called the yellow-legged gallinule. Purple gallinules are tall crane-like marsh birds found on the banks of water bodies. The bird is a member of the Rallidae rail family common in the southeast of the USA and South America.

Color, Size, and appearance

The plumage is purple with a bright red-yellow beak and yellow feet. The backside appears glossy with brilliant green and turquoise hues in bright settings. The long feet are perfect for providing the much-needed balance when walking on floating vegetation and clinging to stems. It is about 18 inches long with a wingspan of 21 inches.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

You are sure to find purple gallinules in wet areas of South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas among others. The birds are excellent swimmers and will occasionally perch on tall trees and bushes. They are common around the edges of water bodies. You can look out for them in marshy areas that have tons of floating leaves. They usually spend time alone and give out loud noises similar to the ordinary gallinule.

They usually feast on seeds, fruits, and leaves from aquatic vegetation. Also, they feed on insects, small reptiles, amphibians, worms, and fish.

The Purple Gallinule

The Purple Gallinule

3. Purplish-Backed Jay (Cyanocorax beecheli)

The purple jay or purplish-backed jay is a small bird of the crow family Corvidae. Regardless of being stunningly colorful, they are dull and mildly noisy.

Color, Size, and appearance

The feathers on the back, wings, and tail are purple whereas all the remaining parts are black including the head, neck, underside of the wings, and the underparts. A purple jay can grow to a length of 14 – 16 inches

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

They are widespread but not overly abundant in dry deciduous forests in northwestern parts of Mexico and parts of South America such as Peru and Bolivia. The birds are territorial and only breed annually around May.  They move in charged groups in the middle of trees and canopies and love jeering harshly. Purplish-backed jays live in small families consisting of a monogamous breeding pair and up to three juveniles. Their diet is primarily insects supplemented by the occasional visit to orchards, dumps, and agricultural fields to feed on grain.

Purplish backed Jay

The Purplish backed Jay

4. Purple Starling (Lamprotornis purpures)

We introduce you to the purple glossy starling. A moderate to abundant purple passerine common in the woodlands of west, central, and eastern Africa.

Color, Size, and appearance

A telltale sign you are looking at the bird is the metallic purple head and body and tail, and shiny green wings. The black legs and bill are black while the eyes are yellow. The tail is short while the bill is rather large. The purple starling is monomorphic meaning there are no distinguishable differences between the sexes. The common passerine is about 9 inches long

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

The birds breed in tropical Africa and can be found in Senegal, Cameroon, Gambia, and Guinea towards the east to Zaire, Uganda, and Western Kenya. They dwell in open woodlands, savannah woodlands with abundant fruit-producing figs and agricultural plantations. Not to forget, the purple starling nests between February and May usually in tree cavities, holes, and hollows. You will also want to note that fruit and insects are the main diets. They love foraging on the ground and bushes and trees.

The Purple Starling

The Purple Starling. Source; YouTube

5. The Varied Bunting (Passerina versicolor)

A small bird in the cardinal birds’ family, the varied bunting is a dull purple bird usually found in desert environments. It’s a rather scarce bird with only the adult male showing traces of purple on its plumage.

Color, Size, and appearance

This bird is a stunningly colorful small bird with a length of about 6 inches, a wingspan of 8 – 12 inches, and a weight of 10 – 15 grams. Compared to its cousins in the banting family, the upper part of the conical beak is more curved in the purple species. It sports a lavender violet plumage mingled with rich plum crimson and cherry red. Females and young ones appear more brownish.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

Varied buntings can be observed in Mexico stretching across the border into the US states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. You will find them in desert forests with thorny shrubs, scrubby woodlands, thickets along streams and rivers, and growing forest clearings. They shy off from areas with a human population and will seldom grace your feeder.

Even more, the purple cardinals will nest in thorn forests near water sources such as canyons and streams. The bird loves to forage in dense and bushy plant growth. It is a songbird and to defend the territory, the male sings lyrical chirps from concealed perches especially in spring and early summer after the breeding season. More than that, twitching of the tail and wings to flush predators is a common sight among the birds. Insects are the staple food to the purple cardinals besides seeds and cactus fruit.

Varied Bunting

The Varied Bunting

6. Violet Backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

The violet-backed starling is as well a strong candidate for the most stunning purple bird. It is a small member of the Sturnidae family that is also referred to as the plum-colored starling or amethyst

Color, Size, and appearance

The purple starlings are sexually dimorphic meaning the sexes look distinctly different. The male is violet to purple-blue at the back and white on the belly and underparts. On the contrary, the female and young ones have dark brown streaks on the upperparts and brown streaks on their bellies. Even so, both sexes have a dark bill and lemon-yellow eyes. Alongside, an adult bird can grow to a max length of 7 inches

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

Violet-backed starlings are widespread natives of sub-Saharan Africa save for the densely forested Congo basin and dry arid southeastern parts of Africa. These starlings are common in open woodlands and wooded parklands, and forest edges and clearings. The birds hardly come down to the ground to forage and will in most cases hop across treetops and feed in the canopies. The majority of these birds are migratory or nomadic also a significant population has been observed to be residents. The birds and hang around small flocks and have a liking for eating fruit and berries, and winged insects should any come their way. Not to forget, the birds are monogamous throughout unless their mate passes on and will separate into pairs to nest during the breeding season.

Violet Backed Starling

Violet Backed Starling

7. Purple Grenadier (Uraeginthus ianthinogaster)

We could not resist adding another exotic purple bird species from the eastern part of Africa. The purple grenadier is a beautiful, slender species of the estrildid finch bird. The bird thrives both in the world and in captivity.

Color, Size, and appearance

Also, the grenadier is sexually dimorphic. Despite both sexes having a black tail and red beak, the male is cinnamon in color in most of the upper parts including the head and neck. The lower back is purple-blue while the belly and underparts are violet-blue with highlights of cinnamon. Meanwhile, the female is primarily cinnamon in color with spots of white on the belly, and purple on her tail feathers. She also has a white ring around the eyes while her male counterpart has a purple one. Apart from that, measuring about 5.5 inches in length and weighing about 16 grams or 0.5 oz., they are small delicate birds.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

Although they are believed to be natives of India, you will encounter the bird if you search the tropical lowlands, dry grasslands, open forests, and shrublands of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The purple finch will forage on the ground in dense undergrowth and thickets. And in spite of being solitary in some cases, they live in monogamous pairs and small flocks which break off for breeding during the rainy period.

Albeit one part that is not as beautiful is the noisy songs. The birds, both male and female begin with soft cracking and buzzing songs before exploding to deafening noises. Their favorite delicacies are grass seeds, insects, and green food.

Purple Grenadier

The Purple Grenadier

8. The Purple Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes caeruleus)

It’d be unfair of our post had we wound up without including the little purple honeycreeper. It is a small Neotropical bird of the tanager family Thraupidae found in South America.

Color, Size, and appearance

A purple plumage with black on the wings, tail, and belly, and bright yellow legs is a welcome sign of a male version of this fearless and curious bird. Females and immatures are green on the upperparts, while the underparts have green streaks and yellowish-buff. Also, you can’t fail to notice the cinnamon on the throat and the blue stripe on the mustache.

It is equipped with a long black decurved bill adapted to sucking nectar from flowers. The honeycreeper is a small bird with a length of around 4.5 inches and a weight of 0.42 oz. or 12 grams.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

It is easy to spot this bird in the forests on lowlands and foothills of tropical Americas from Colombia and Venezuela south to Brazil and on Trinidad. Look out for the bird in forest canopies, along with cocoa and citrus plantations. They spend time in small groups. What’s more, expect noisy thin high-pitched zree calls from the bird.

And do not be deceived by their minimalist sizes, these bold birds can really put on a brave front. Case in point; every time they hear the call of a presumed predator bird, say a ferruginous pygmy owl, they will come out of the hiding and hunt for it to set upon it. The bird loves feeding on nectar and occasionally takes a bite of fruits, berries, and insects.

Purple Honeycreeper

The Purple Honeycreeper

9. Violet Subrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus)

The next amazing purple spectacle in the avian world that is worth mentioning is the Violet Subrewing. It is a comparatively large hummingbird that traces its roots to southern Mexico and Central America and spreads south to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Color, Size, and appearance

It is a large bird with a thick arched bill adapted to eating nectar. The male and female have divergent appearances. The adult male has a deep violet plumage, with a shiny dark green back and wings. The tail is half graced with flashy white corners while the shafts of the outer primary flight feathers are adaptively thick and flat. The female has dark green upperparts and grey on the underparts. The throat is violet. Besides that, the bird is around 15 cm long with males being larger and weighing close to 12 grams and females weighing 10 grams.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

He subrewing prefers living in areas of the high altitude above 2000m. You may be lucky to meet one in the understory and edges of mountain forests, ravines, wooden areas, and growing forests; mostly near small water bodies. The subrewing is a territorial bird that has a fondness for nesting in large cup nests attached to low horizontal branches, in most cases over a stream. They produce a sharp twittering call and the male will gather in flocks of up to ten males, and sing in high-pitched piercing chirps. It is also worth noting that despite being the smaller ones, the males are less aggressive. Their main food of this purple hummingbird is nectar, especially from undergrowth flowers.

The Violet Subrewing

The Violet Subrewing

10. The purple heron (Ardea purpurea)

We spared this beauty for last. The purple heron is a large migratory wading bird of the heron family, Ardeidae. It is similar to the common grey heron but for its slightly smaller and purple plumage.

Color, Size, and appearance

It is a slender bird with long feet that are adapted to wading and long, straight and powerful bill for spearing its prey. In flight, it is slow and retracts the neck.

The adults look striking with a glossy grayish- purple plumage and patches of black, brown, and white. The wings are slate-grey, the breast is reddish-brown while the belly is the black belly.   The flanks and scapulars are reddish-purple. Furthermore, the long bill is brownish-yellow beak is long and becomes brighter in color during the breeding season.

The bird grows to a 31–38 inches’ length, a standing height of 28 – 37 inches, and a wingspan of 47–60 inches. You will also want to note that the male bird is larger, heavier, and darker than the female.

Origin, Behavior, and Diet

The purple heron will show up in fresh marshes with tall reeds and other vegetation near large water bodies, shallow freshwater, or other extensive wetlands. You can also spot them in rice fields, water lagoons, and around fig trees. They breed in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The birds breed annually during the rainy season from April to June. In addition, it has a knack for eating fish, rodents, frogs, and insects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Similar Creatures to purple Birds?

Other animals that are naturally purple include the purple Starfish, purple emperor butterfly. the elegant firefish, Indian purple frog, and the Janthina Janthina.

How can you tell the difference between a house finch and a purple finch?

In terms of appearance, house finches wear a classic red or red-orange plumage while purple finches are to a great extent dark pink or rosy. That’s not all. The red in purple finches extends to the crown, nape, back, chest, cheeks, and flanks. On the other hand, the red on house finches are more concentrated on the forehead, brow, and upper chest.

How to keep other birds out of the purple martin house?

You can use insert traps to eliminate birds such as sparrows that would want to inhabit a purple Martin house. Alternatively, install door plugs to close the house during winter when martins have migrated to South America. If all fail, lower the house every 7 to 10 days and remove the foreign birds. You may also improvise a predator guard consist of aluminum rails mounted around the compartments to keep large predator birds such as owls and hawks from entering the house.

What do purple martin birds eat?

Purple martins usually feed on flying insects, including wasps, winged ants, some bees, bugs, flies, beetles, moths and butterflies, dragonflies, and spiders.

How to attract purple martin birds?

To attract purple martins to your yard, you need to set the right conditions for them. To begin with, put up appropriate purple martin houses with multiple compartments. They will not come to your feeder unless you provide adequate food and water. During the nesting season, offer finely crushed eggshells to provide calcium to the birds. Do not spray insecticides or pesticides on lawns, or plantations because most insects, the most important food source, will perish or fly away. Alongside, proximity to a large natural water source such as a long pond, lake, or stream is in order since martins prefer them over birdbaths.

What birds look like purple martins?

Northern Rough-winged Swallows bear a close resemblance to female Purple Martins. You can only tell them apart by looking at their tail. Unlike the notched martin tail, theirs is small and square. Other birds like starlings and swifts are also similar to martins.

Read also about Discover the Mysterious Robin eggs Blue color

Images sources: Unsplash , Pexels  , Youtube , theadvocate

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Karim Bruno

I am a passionate and dedicated writer who loves to advocate for protection and preservation of nature not least of which are birds.

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