It’s September and the Purple Martins have hatched, fledged, and have learned to forage for themselves. It’s time for both the young martins of the year and their parents to make their seasonal migration trip south for the winter. Where have your Purple Martin friends gone, when might they return again, and what can you do in the meantime?
Purple Martins are a Neotropical migrant: they go to where food is seasonally abundant. These insectivores travel each fall and again each spring, and spend the greater part of the year not actually on the breeding grounds here in North America but in Brazil, South America. Before they leave, they congregate in large numbers in communal roosts where they spend their nights and forage abroad to return to the Roost each night. They may start forming the roost at the end of July in Ontario and leave at the end of August or early September. Many of these Roosts can be seen as Doppler images on Weather radar. Although they spend the winter in Brazil, they can also be found in other central South American countries during the winter non-breeding season, where the longer summer daylight hours allow for long days of insect foraging.
In late September, lower your houses and/ or gourds, clean out and disinfect the compartments with a bleach solution and block the cavity entrances with pool noodle pieces or clothes pins to keep other unwanted birds out. Leave the houses/gourds on the poles (lowered as far as they go) or if you prefer take the houses down and store them for the winter in a location where they will be kept safe and bug free. Do whichever is most convenient for you. Sit back and watch the Purple Martins on a Doppler Weather location and track their movement as they move south. Search the internet for up to date information on their whereabouts and when they will return to your area.