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Progne sinaloae

Sinaloa Martin

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Hirundinidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Fang, Emerson D., and Thomas S. Schulenberg



A typical Progne martin: a large, sexually dimorphic swallow, with a slightly forked tail. The male is mostly blue-black, with a broad white area on the lower breast and undertail coverts; the sides are blue-black. The female has a similar pattern, but is duller, with a gray-brown throat and upper breast, and sides to head. See Similar Species.

Similar Species

The Sinaloa Martin very closely resembles the Caribbean Martin (Progne dominicensis), and it has often been considered conspecific with that bird (see Systematics). The breeding distribution of Caribbean and Sinaloa martins do not overlap. Presumably they also winter in separate areas, but geographic overlap during the nonbreeding season is a possibility. Sinaloa Martin would be difficult to distinguish from Caribbean Martin in the field, and perhaps even in the hand, on the basis of current information. The male is described as "exactly similar to" Caribbean Martin in plumage (Ridgway 1904), but averages slightly smaller. For example, Ridgway (1904) gave the following data on wing length of males: Sinaloa is 136.7 mm (mean; range 136-138 mm) and of Caribbean is 143.5 mm (range 134-149 mm) . Zimmer (1955) Phillips (1986) also report that there is a subtle difference in the pattern of the underparts, in that the white abdomen of Sinaloa is broader, in contrast to more extensively dark flanks in Caribbean.

Females of the Sinaloa and Caribbean martins also are very similar to one another, and perhaps not distinguishable except by average differences in size. They are also similar to the Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) and to female Purple Martin (Progne subis). Female Sinaloa Martin has a darker throat and upper breast than Gray-breasted or female Purple martin, with more contrast between the dark breast and white belly, and the belly and undertail coverts are pure white; the underparts of Gray-breasted and female Purple martins are finely streaked dusky. Female Purple Martin further differs from Sinaloa by the paler (gray) forecrown and nuchal collar, and by its larger size (Davis 1972, Peterson and Chalif 1973, Howell and Webb 1995).


Little known, indeed until recently completely unknown (Turner 2004). The few recent recordings of vocalizations are of calls that are similar to those of other species of Progne.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

A large, dark swallow with a forked tail. The following description is based on Ridgway (1904) and Turner (2004):

Male: Mostly glossy steel-blue. The lower breast, belly, and undertail coverts are pure white, except for some dark spots or a dark band across the undertail coverts. Underwing coverts and axillars are gray-brown. Wings and tail are black with a bluish gloss.

Female has generally duller coloration.  Upperparts duller blue, sometimes mottled with gray-brown.  The sides of the face, and the throat, breast and flanks are dusky brown; the center of the throat is paler than the sides of the throat.  The middle of the throat is pale compared to its darker breast. The lower breast, belly, and undertail coverts are pure white, and are sharply separated from the darker throat and upper breast.

The first year male is similar to the adult female, but has blue feathers on its upperparts and some blue feathers on its breast as well (Howell and Webb 1995).

Juvenile undescribed (Howell and Webb 1995, Turner 2004).

Bare Parts

No information.


Very little data.

Total length 17-18 cm (Turner 2004), 17-18.5 cm (Howell and Webb 1995).

Linear measurements of three males (Ridgway 1904):

Wing length: mean 136.7 mm (range 136-138 mm)

Tail length: mean 69.5 mm (range 67-72 mm)

Depth of tail fork: mean 17.5 mm (range 16.5-19.5 mm)

Bill (exposed culmen): mean 10.1 mm (range 10-10.5 mm)

Tarsus: mean 13.2 mm (12.5-13.5 mm)

Mass: sample of 3 (combined male and female), mean 42.6 g (range 42-43.7 g; Dunning 2008)


No information.

Geographic Variation

Currently the Sinaloa Martin is considered to be monotypic, but the Sinaloa Martin has had a varied taxonomic history. It has been considered to be conspecific with Purple Martin (Progne subis), together with the taxa dominicnesis (now Caribbean Martin Progne dominicensis) and cryptoleuca (now Cuban Martin Progne cryptoleuca) (Hellmayr 1935); included with dominicensis and cryptoleuca as one of three subspecies constituting the Snowy-bellied Martin (also known as White-bellied Martin) Progne dominicensis, separate from Purple Martin (e.g., Peters 1960, Phillips 1986, Turner and Rose 1989); or together with dominicensis in a species separate from both Purple and Cuban martins (Zimmer 1955). See Systematics.


The taxon sinaloae has been treated treated as a subspecies of Purple Martin (Progne subis); as a subspecies of other species of martin; or as a separate species (see Geographic Variation). An analysis of both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data across Progne shows that dominicensis, cryptoleuca, and sinaloae belong to a clade of Middle American taxa, together with the Middle American populations of the Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) (Moyle et al. 2008). Within this clade, sinaloae is sister to the Middle American populations of chalybea, while dominicensis and cryptoleuca are sister to one another. This is, in part, consistent with earlier suggestions of a relationship between sinaloae and chalybea (Zimmer 1955, Eisenmann 1959). Consequently sinaloae is not conspecific with cryptoleuca or dominicensis (contra Zimmer 1955, Peters 1960, Phillips 1986, Turner and Rose 1989).

According to Turner (2004), sinaloae has hybridized with Progne chalybea; we have not traced the original source for this report. Van Rossem (1945) described a specimen that he interpreted as a possible hybrid between sinaloae and Progne subis hesperia: a male specimen from Agiabampo, Sonora (May), that resembled male subis but was small and had "conspicuously white-margined under tail coverts and an occasional concealed white feather on the abdominal region." Davis and Miller (1962) examined the same specimen and concluded that the characters of sinaloae "are very weakly expressed" and that this specimen was best regarded as an "individual variant" of subis.

Within the swallows Hirundinidae, analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data shows Progne falls within one of the two major clades of swallows; the sister taxon to Progne is the genus of New World rough-winged swallows, Stelgidopteryx (Sheldon et al. 2005).

Recommended Citation

Fang, Emerson D., and Thomas S. Schulenberg. 2010. Sinaloa Martin (Progne sinaloae), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: