The weather forecast is often wrong, but it seems certain that we are entering a cold and rainy period that our purple martins cannot survive without help. Yesterday, May 3rd, was their last good feeding day here. Beginning today, for the Leamington area: a five-day stretch in which the first 3 are no-feed days, followed by two very marginal days.
I want to encourage everyone who would like to do what they can. Even if you yourself have not trained your birds to accept supplemental food, they may have picked up the skill during one of their migrations home, because so many landlords south of us feed their birds, and also feel that they feed many migrants coming northward. So, any of the following options may be worth a try:
1) Try flipping crickets (frozen then thawed) into the air with a plastic picnic spoon to simulate flying insects. If your birds have already learned, they’ll probably take to it right away. If not, it may take quite a few flips (and some wasted crickets), but once that first bird catches on, many of the others will quickly follow.There is a very good demonstration of supplemental feeding on the PMCA forum: https://www.purplemartin.org/ I
www.purplemartin.orgCheck out the new edition of the Martin Market Place catalog! Download the latest edition of our catalog here. Proceeds from sales go toward our research and ..
If you are successful with this, then it will be an easier transition for you and your birds to do #3.
Crickets are expensive to buy at a pet store, but a pet store owner may be willing to assist you if you explain your need and your membership in a club dedicated to the conservation of purple martins. Maybe having this email to show will help.
2) Scrambled egg can be tossed with a spoon also if you cannot get crickets. Although this does not look bug-like to them (as a cricket would), it is worth a try on the chance that your birds are already familiar with supplemental feeding (landlords south of us feed crickets, mealworms, and eggs). To scramble eggs for your purple martins, break eggs into a bowl, scramble well with a fork, and micro-wave on HI 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until they are cooked through. The egg needs to be firm enough to be “flippable”. A potato masher is good to break the eggs into smaller pieces. Don’t add anything to the egg – it is a pure protein and nothing else is needed.
3) Put food on the porches or in compartments of your purple martin housing. (Even if your birds accept flipped food, if the wind is too high for flipping, this is sometimes the only option.) This can be crickets, egg, or freeze-dried and reconstituted mealworms, if you can find them. Live mealworms can be used (and are cheaper than crickets), but they must be contained within a straight sided dish so they can’t crawl away (I believe one of our members uses glass votive-candle holders for this, available at the dollar store). If you know which compartments/gourds they are staying in, you can put food in a small bowl inside the compartment.
As a general guideline, per the PMCA,
If eating nothing else, an adult martin would require about 40 crickets per day, to maintain his weight.
If eating nothing else, an adult martin would require about 1/2 of an egg per day, to maintain his weight.
I hope this is helpful to you, and that the weather people are very wrong, and that you have success if you choose to try any of these methods !
All the best to you and all of our birds. Feel free to call if you have questions.